Having quick pickled vegetables in your refrigerator is one of the most convenient pleasures. It's a brilliant solution to food preservation and it requires minimal effort.
What is quick pickle?
Quick Pickle is another term used for refrigerator pickles. This refers to any vegetable soaked in vinegar brine for a minimum of 24 hours before consumption. When done right, it preserves the vegetable for up to 3 months in the refrigerator. It has a distinct sour flavor and a somewhat tender texture; although a few vegetables retain some of their crispiness after the process.
Fermenting vs Pickling
The term ‘quick’ here is necessary to set it apart from fermented pickles or fermented vegetables. Not all pickles are fermented but all fermented vegetables are, technically, pickled.
Here are a few more differences between the two:
- Fermented pickles or fermented vegetables take longer to make, usually between 3-7 days. Quick pickles on the other hand are ready to eat after 24 hours.
- Fermented pickles develop probiotics whereas quick pickles do not.
- Tannins are often needed to make fermented vegetables so they will retain some of their crispiness despite the lengthy process. Quick pickles do not need this because they are ready to eat in just 24 hours -- that’s not enough time to turn the vegetables into a mushy mess although they do lose some of their original texture.
Should pickling brine be hot?
Let’s talk about when and why you should heat the brine for quick pickles (even when you can make them without heating the brine).
Heating the vinegar brine or pickle juice before adding it to the vegetables does 3 things:
- It ensures that the salt is well-dissolved in the liquid;
- Heating the brine helps release more of the vegetable’s flavors;
- You can infuse the brine with other flavors through heating.
So in a nutshell, heat your brine if you are pickling a vegetable that’s not particularly flavorful or if you are infusing your quick pickle with herbs and spices.
Formula for Brine
The formula for the brine is very basic. You add a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water into a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Add salt and sugar (sugar is optional), then stir till they completely dissolve in the liquid. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. You don't need to boil the liquid brine.
Use the hot brine to pour in the mason jar, over the vegetables. Make sure to submerge the veggies or food being preserved. This acidic liquid delays the decay and keeps the bacteria at bay.
What can I pickle at home?
Just about anything! Even some fruits like strawberries, apricots, figs, and watermelon can be pickled! And yes, you can pickle greens. To make it more interesting, you can quick pickle multiple different vegetables together in one jar.
I usually like to pickle away whatever leftover vegetables I have before they go bad. Last week I bought a bag full of shredded carrots to use in a salad, and whatever I didn't end up using was pickled and stored in the refrigerator. It takes less than ten minutes to preserve your produce and saves you from wasting your money.
Here are some popular vegetables to quick pickle:
- English Cucumbers
- Pickled Onions
- Red Cabbage
Customize Quick Pickled Veggies with Herbs & Spices
Get creative and and uniquely flavor your quick pickles with fresh or dried herbs and spices. You can add several variations to the brine to infuse more flavor. Here are some ideas:
- Fresh herbs - Dill, thyme, rosemary, etc.
- Dried spices - Black peppercorn, red pepper flakes, dill seeds, coriander, mustard seeds, cloves, and/or any other spices (not ground).
- Raw spices - Garlic, ginger or turmeric sliced or whole (sliced will give more flavor).
Jars For Pickling
Pickling jars must be either glass, stoneware or ceramic; avoid using plastic to store pickles. The jars you use to pickle must me airtight. I recommend using the wide-mouth mason jars with sealed lids because they are easy to use and protect the pickled contents.
Here are some recommended options:
- 32 oz Wide Mouth Mason Jars
- 32 oz Wide Mouth with Hinged Lid
- 16 oz Wide Mouth Mason Jars
- 12 oz Wide Mouth Mason Jars
Apart from snacking on them right out of the jar, pickled vegetables are great for adding a pungent flavor to your dishes. You can use them to top salads and add them to sandwiches, as well as mix them with certain types of sauces.
Any basic vinegar works (distilled, apple cider, white vinegar, white wine). Avoid using aged or concentrated vinegars like balsamic or malt. I prefer going with distilled vinegar because it has a tart acidic flavor and it's colorless.
After the first 24 hours of refrigeration, the pickles will preserve the vegetables for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.
More Homemade Condiment Recipes
- Quick Pickled Beets without Sugar
- Sweet Balsamic Glaze with Maple (Reduction)
- Maple Dijon Vinaigrette
- Lavender Simple Syrup
- Homemade Lemongrass Paste Recipe
- Vegan Caesar Dressing
Quick Pickled Vegetables
- Fresh vegetables, peeled, washed and chopped as you desire*
- ½ cup distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar optional or add less, if desired
- 1 tablespoon dried spices Optional: black peppercorn, mustard seeds and/or any other spice
- 2 sprigs fresh herbs Optional: dill, thyme and/or rosemary or other herbs
- 4 cloves garlic sliced or whole (sliced will give more flavor)
- Prepare wide mouth mason jars 12 oz: Clean and sterilize mason jars before using. If you are using herbs or spices, then add them to the jars. (Optional: you can also slightly toast your dry spices for more flavor over low heat on the pan before adding them to the jar. Note: when stovetop toasting turn off the heat once you smell the aroma of the spices because you do not want to over cook and burn them).
- Wash, peel and chop your desired vegetables. Tightly pack the vegetables into the jars without smashing the the vegetables.
- To make the brine: place the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a small saucepan over low to medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat once brine is simmering.
- Pour the brine over the vegetables, filling each jar to within ½ inch of the top and submerging the veggies. You can discard the excess reminder of the brine.
- Tightly screw the lids on the jars. Give them a good shake and refrigerate them for at least 24 hours before use.