Pregnant women crave them. They make a sandwich sing. Cleopatra was rumored to consider them a beauty secret, and they’re even mentioned in the bible. That’s right, we’re talking about those little bites of crunchy, briny glory: the pickle. Though the humble pickle may have started life as a necessity to preserve foods for long storage, they’ve grown to be an obsession for many.
However, there’s no need to go running to the refrigerated section or the pickle aisle of your supermarket every time you get a craving. Creating your own pickles is easy, and you can even do it without investing in a lot of extra tools.
What you’ll need:
- Jars. While you can easily buy new jars from most supermarkets, it’s easy to save a few bucks by simply recycling jars from other grocery products such as pasta sauces, olives and even other pickles. Note: The jars must be clean. A wash with hot, soapy water or a run through the dishwasher should suffice for the pickle recipes below.
- A ladle. Sure, you can get away without having one. But it does make transferring brines to a jar that much easier.
- A refrigerator. While it is possible to create pickles that will do just fine on the shelf, that also requires additional techniques of steralizing and sealing your jars. For this round of pickle making, we’ll be focusing on pickles that even a novice can throw together.
1. Du Chua: Vietnamese Daikon & Carrot Pickles
If you’ve ever tucked into one of Vietnam’s most famous exports, the Bahn Mi sandwich, chances are you’ve already enjoyed Du Chua pickles. Recreating these at home is riddiculously easy. As the recipe makes quite a bit, you can easily share these around (or selfishly keep them for yourself – we won’t tell).
2. Easiest Fridge Dill Pickles
Once you discover how easy it is to make your own dill pickles, you’ll chuckle to yourself smugly as you saunter past the fancy refrigerated pickle section. This recipe comes from the always reliable Smitten Kitchen, and consistently produces a great, basic pickle. Once you’ve mastered this recipe, branch out with extra ingredients of your own, such as chopped garlic, a whole spicy chili pepper, or even extra pickling spice. That’s the great thing about pickles for the home chef – experimentation!
- 8 larger or to 10 smaller firm, fresh Kirby (pickling) cucumbers
- 3 teaspoons kosher, coarse or pickling salt
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
Slice cucumbers very thinly and place in a 1-liter or equivalent lidded jar. Add 3 teaspoons salt and dill, then pour in white vinegar. Close the jar and give it a few shakes to begin distributing the ingredients.
The liquid level in the jar may appear low. However, within an hour or two, the salt will draw the moisture from the cucumbers and wilt them, while the liquid becomes a perfectly balanced pickle brine.
Place in the refrigerator and shake every once in awhile to keep distributing the brine.
3. Small Batch Homemade Sauerkraut
Forget the stuff you’ve seen in cans and the expensive jars in the refrigerated section, sauerkraut is actually relatively easy to make at home. This method of making sauerkraut is as old as pickling itself, and produces a traditional pickle that’s loaded with probiotics. While many homemade sauerkraut recipes produce more than most people could even store in their fridge, this small batch recipe lets you try it out without taking up valuable space.
4. Rice Wine Quick Pickle
Unlike its apple cider or white vinegar counterparts, rice wine vinegar lends a more subtle, laid back flavor to your pickles.This particular recipe is also great for first-time picklers who might want to experiment, as it’s difficult to screw up. For example, try pickling rinsed, canned beetroot, thinly sliced cucumbers, baby carrots (hello, Bloody Mary condiment!) or even crunchy jicama. Simply fill your jar with your chosen vegetable, and pour over the pickling liquid. They last in your refrigerator for up to a month, but we seriously doubt they’ll be there that long.
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Select up to 3-4 cups of vegetables you would like to pickle and add to your jars. You may also add ingredients such as sprigs of fresh dill, peppercorns or even garlic at this point to customize your pickles. Pour liquid over, seal and refrigerate.
5. Easy Countertop Kimchi
Love Korean food? Then you’re probably already addicted to that spicy, cabbage concoction of kimchi. Like sauerkraut, kimchi relies on one of the most ancient pickling techniques – salting food and allowing it to naturally ferment. This recipe requires no cooking; just basic mixing on your part and the patience to wait the 4-5 days for it to ferment on your countertop. Once you’ve reached that lovely spicy stage, simply store in your refrigerator and eat with abandon.
Now that you’ve seen just how easy it is to make your own pickles, there’s no excuse not to start brining up every vegetable that enters your life. Try branching out by using these basic methods with other vegetables like cauliflower, eggplant or even crunchy green tomatoes. Experiment like crazy – you may just surprise yourself!
Featured photo credit: Brandon Dimcheff via flic.kr