If you’ve never pickled, now is the time. Pickling vegetables is an awesome way to lengthen their “shelf-life”, saving you money and time. Once in the brine, the veggies are good for up to 2 weeks! And this is all without the lengthy process of canning. Prep at the beginning of the week and add pickled veggies to salads, eggs, sandwiches, and sautees. They’re convenient, ready-to-go, and taste deliciously fresh. Not to mention, pickled foods pack a ton of health benefits.
Yes, you can chop and mince by hand, but using a proper slicer will make your life so much easier. We suggest you invest in a mandolin, which can be adjusted to achieve different thicknesses. Your veggie slices will be uniform and thin, which is key to pickling. You can purchase one at most big chain department stores or specialty kitchen shops, and you’ll only pay between $10-30. Well worth the price.
**Note: slicing can be dangerous! Be very aware of your hand placement and keep your fingers protected.
Any vegetable can be pickled, but some are more ideal than others. We like to pickle: peppers (sweet and spicy), daikon, ginger, red onion, green onion, shallots, carrots, cucumber, ramps, sugar snap peas, beets, fennel, garlic, garlic scapes, radishes, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and asparagus. But go ahead and pickle whatever your heart desires. The best part is the experimentation, and really, it’s all about the proper combinations. (See below)
The basic brine uses vinegar (most often, a distilled white), water, salt, and sugar. The veggie to water to vinegar ratio should be 1-1-1 or 1 cup veggies, 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water. For salt, we add 1 tablespoon for 4 cups of the vinegar/water mixture. For sugar, we usually do the same unless we’re trying to achieve a sweeter pickle. There’s a variety of ways to spice up your brine with herbs, seeds, specialty vinegar, and leaves. Depending on your chosen flavor profile, your brine will change. Here are our favorite brines.
Italian Brine: mustard seeds + dill + fennel fronds + seeds + champagne vinegar
Indian Brine: black & golden sesame seeds + mustard seeds + fenugreek seeds + tumeric + fresh ginger
Greek Brine: kosher salt + red wine vinegar + raw olives
Japanese Brine: mirin + soy sauce + plum vinegar
There are many more brines from all over the world. Experiment!
Really, the best pickling adventures have to do with the right combinations of veggies. Certain veggies like beets and radishes will bleed and stain the brine (and all your other veggies) red. For this reason, we reserve those for their own pickling. Otherwise, our favorite combinations come down to the right mixture of flavors.
Peppers (sweet & spicy) + Green Onion + Sugar Snap Peas + Ginger + Daikon ~ This mix makes Spring rolls sing!
Radishes + Red Onion ~ Yum on salads, eggs, and sandwiches.
Ramps + Garlic + Garlic Scapes + Shallots ~ The fresher the better. Add. To. EVERYTHING.
Artichoke Hearts + Heirloom Tomatoes + Raw Olives + Ramps + Fennel Fronds ~ Yummy on Italian subs.
Cucumber + Red Onion ~ Make traditional pickle spears or slice the cucumber in rounds and use as a salad topper.
Beets ~ Delicious in summertime on salads.
Ginger ~ Add to Japanese dishes like sticky rice, soy sautees, or sashimi.
The Health Benefits
The fermentation in pickling aids in creating healthy bacteria in the gut, which improves digestion. Canning vegetables requires heating the jar to seal it, and this process kills many of the good vitamins in the vegetables. Quick pickling maintains all the essential vitamins.
That being said, pickled vegetables tend to be high in salt and over-eating then can be detrimental to your health. Continue to eat many fresh vegetables and consider the even-healthier option of fermented vegetables (see upcoming post).