Pickling encapsulates the crisp flavors of peak summer produce. A splash of vinegar, a spoonful of salt, and a heavy pinch of spices transform any backyard bounty of cucumbers into a long-lasting treat.
Quick pickling is a simple technique every cook should learn. Once you have the basic pickle brine recipe down, you can pickle just about anything and everything at the farmers’ market. Maybe skip the bar of artisanal lavender soap, though?
Which Vinegar Can I Use for Pickling?
White vinegar is the standard for making quick homemade pickles. It has a high acidity content, which is necessary for preserving vegetables. White vinegar also has a sharp, clean taste that takes on the flavor of other ingredients.
Apple cider vinegar is another good choice, especially for bread and butter pickles. Cider vinegar has an easygoing flavor and adds an attractive color to your pickle.
White wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, and rice vinegar also work well for pickle brines. Balsamic vinegar is not ideal for pickle recipes, unless you’re just adding a splash for flavor.
Popular Vegetables for Pickling
In the United States, cucumbers are synonymous with pickled vegetables. The Kirby or “pickling” cucumber is the top choice for a firm, crunchy pickle. Parisian cornichons, aka gherkins, are also a favorite. Longer varieties such as Persian and English hothouse cucumbers are less desired for pickling as they often become mushy if the seeds aren’t removed. When pickling any cucumber, slice off the blossom end as it contains an enzyme that softens pickles.
Aside from cucumbers, you can pickle pretty much anything. What follows is a short list of the most popular pickling ingredients besides cucumbers: Carrots, beets, radishes, onions, scallions, garlic cloves, chile peppers, lemons, olives, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, watermelon rind, asparagus, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, cabbage, celery, fennel, green beans, zucchini, okra, and, grape leaves. Whichever ingredient you choose to pickle, select vegetables that are at their peak ripeness.
Popular Spices for Pickling
Spices and aromatics are an essential part of any good pickle. The standout spices and herbs for any delicious pickle brine are bay leaves, coriander seeds, mustard seed, caraway seed, dill weed, allspice berries, dried chiles, turmeric, horseradish, cinnamon, and cloves. For an all-encompassing flavor, try using our pickling spices blend. You can also browse our entire collection of pickling spices to pick out your favorites and try your own blend.
With the exception of ground turmeric and horseradish, whole spices are the preferred choice for making pickle brines. Ground spices will affect the appearance of your pickles and can overpower the flavor.
Salt and sugar are also important ingredients. It’s best to use salts that have no additives, like coarse Mediterranean sea salt or coarse Himalayan sea salt. White cane sugar, brown sugar, and even maple syrup can be used to sweeten a jar of pickles.
Pickle Brine Recipe
Equal parts white vinegar and water form the most basic of brine recipes. From there, you can add your favorite spices, herbs, salts, and sugar to the recipe. For salt, a good place to start is a tablespoon per cup of brine. You can also salt the vegetables separately and rinse them before brining. This extra step draws out moisture in the vegetables, making for improved texture and flavor.
An easy pickling recipe to follow is the 3-2-1 method; three parts water, two parts vinegar, and one part sugar. This 3-2-1 pickle brine is on the sweeter side, making it great for bread and butter pickles or spicy pickled beets. For a more savory pickle, use less sugar.
Once you have determined an ideal ratio of ingredients, combine them all in a saucepan over medium high heat. Stir the brine so that any salt and sugar is completely dissolved. Once the liquid begins boiling, turn off heat. The brine is now ready to pour over your soon-to-be pickles. Make sure the vegetables are completely submerged in the brine. Once the brine cools to room temperature, the jar can be placed in the refrigerator and be kept for weeks.
Be careful when pouring warm or hot brine over certain vegetables as they can overcook and become too soft. If you are worried about this, let your brine cool to a lukewarm temperature before using. The pickles will be ready to eat after 24 hours, but get exponentially better after one week.
Top 10 Pickling Recipes
While the quick pickling method is simple and delicious, many cooks enjoy the old fashioned way of pickling. Below you will find recipes for both traditional pickling and a simpler modern approach. If you have any questions about pickling, or have a favorite recipe to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.