If you can eat it, chances are you can pickle it too.
Pickling is trendy, and it’s a craze that has lasted for a while now. If you can eat it, chances are you can pickle it too. Well, you might not want to apply that logic to absolutely all foods (I’m pretty confident that bread would not withstand the pickling process), but your options are pretty close to unlimited. Here are seven different ways to spice up everyone’s favourite, pickles.
1. Quick pickle or canning?
When you think pickling, it doesn’t have to be a labour-intensive, multi-day affair. Absolutely you can go the canning route and pickle up a bounty of harvest vegetables to store for the winter, but you can also throw together quick pickles in mere minutes. If you have vinegar, salt, and cucumbers (or your produce of choice), you are ready to get your pickle on. Sliced thin and drizzled with a splash of good white wine vinegar and a pinch of sea salt, cucumbers are transformed from a watery gourd to the ideal topper for grilled fish or a crunchy salad.
2. Use pickles for more than eating as-is
Some may argue that pickles are best consumed straight from jar to mouth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative. They make a surprisingly delicious vessel for cheese fondue, alongside traditional bread cubes. And those deep-fried pickles you love to get at the bar; you can replicate them at home by breading pickles with panko and baking or frying them. Chopped or minced pickles can also be incorporated into salad dressings or sauces (think remoulade and tartar sauce) to take the place of some of the salt!
3. Sweet or salty?
Don’t overlook sugar when putting together the brine for your next batch of pickles. Sure, pickles provide a characteristic salty punch, but sweet pickles can be equally delicious. Not to mention it helps to cut the acidity of the vinegar and make them more palatable.
4. Different shapes and slices
The way in which you prepare your produce for pickling will, in turn, affect the texture of the finished product. Keeping vegetables such as pickling cucumbers or baby carrots whole will help them to retain their crunch, but it will also take longer for the brine to permeate. When you slice them open however, the vegetables soak up the vinegar that much faster. Thin slices and quick pickling go hand in hand, especially if dinner needs to be on the table in a hurry.
5. Vary the vinegar
Traditional white vinegar adds the sourness you need when making pickles, but it doesn’t have a lot of flavour in itself. Most pickling recipes dilute white vinegar with water so it doesn’t rot your stomach! Try alternative vinegars like:
- white wine vinegar
- red wine vinegar
- rice vinegar
- apple cider vinegar
- white balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic would also work but then you have to contend with the dark colouration)
- champagne vinegar
- raspberry vinegar
- any type of citrus juice
6. Experiment with spices
The most basic of pickle brines at a minimum consists of vinegar, salt, water, and maybe a pinch of sugar. With that as your foundation, you can take it in virtually any direction you want. Try curry spices like turmeric, cumin, and cardamom for an Indian kick. Pickled carrots are especially good with whole coriander seeds tossed into the mix, and lots of black peppercorns too. Keep in mind that whole spices tend to work better than ground ones, as you don’t have to worry about them dissolving into the brine and creating an unpleasant film or scum.
7. Pickle everything; vegetables and fruits included!
Pickling is about more than just pickled cucumbers. Carrots, pearl onions, cauliflower, beets, and asparagus are all vegetables that can withstand the pickling process. Typically, hearty vegetables are better suited to pickling and canning, but you can quick pickle a lot more. Pickled mushrooms? Don’t diss it until you try it. Pickled fruit? You’re on! The fall is the perfect time for quick pickling newly harvested apples and pears, which are a great accompaniment to roast pork or a charcuterie board.