Last summer I posted about lacto-fermented pickles–a simple, healthy and frugal way to pickle vegetables. Over the weekend, however, I found myself longing for the sharp tang and satisfying crunch of crisp spring vegetables brined in a vinegar solution. The results were quick and delicious.
To do your own spring pickling, you’ll need a few things to start.
1. Heat safe jars. Canning jars are a safe choice. Sterilize them in your dishwasher or by rinsing them with boiling water.
2. Vegetables, cut into 1/2-1/3″ thick wedges or spears. I chose vegetables that could stand up to having warm brine poured over them which speeds up and simplifies the process a bit–carrots, beets and radishes. Small carrots and radishes can be halved or quartered lengthwise, and beets may be sliced into pretty wedges.
3. Vinegar. Choose a vinegar that won’t overwhelm the flavor of your vegetables. A heavy or sweet vinegar (such as malt or balsamic) will likely overpower the more delicate flavor of a young carrot. Good choices are apple cider, rice wine or brown rice vinegar, red or white wine vinegar, or even sherry vinegar, if you want something a bit richer.
4. Water. If you typically use unfiltered tap water, you may want to consider purchasing spring or distilled water for its neutral taste. Mineral or metallic notes in your water can really be highlighted by the pickling process.
5. Sweetener and sugar. I chose to use unrefined, organic sugar and sea salt, but you can play with other sweeteners and salts, including maple syrup and pink or kosher salt.
6. Dried spices. You can let your imagination run a bit wild here. I like to keep things simple and add only two or three dried spices to a jar at a time, so I don’t muddy the flavor of my pickles, but you can also go for a stand-by mix such as this one. My favorite choices include mustard seeds, chilli flakes, peppercorn, dill seeds and fennel seeds.
7. Aromatics. Such as fresh thyme sprigs and thinly sliced garlic.
The pickling process.
I mix up a solution as follows, and gently heat it in a thick bottomed pot over medium heat. (This will make enough to fill approximately two quart jars.)
Next, I add my spices and aromatics to the jars, pressing them down between the vegetables with my fingers. I’m not very precise about this, but I use about two teaspoons of dried spices and a small handful of aromatics per quart-sized jar. If you want to keep things quite simple, just sprinkle in a few generous pinches of dill seed and call it a day.
When the vinegar solution is gently simmering, remove it from the heat to cool for a few moments. While it is still hot to the touch, but not scalding, carefully pour your vinegar solution into your jars so that the vegetables are covered. (If you need a bit more to top off, use a 2-1 vinegar to water solution.)
Allow to cool for a few minutes before putting lids on the jars. Screw the lids on very carefully and gently shake the jars to distribute spices. Allow to sit on the counter overnight, then refrigerate the next day.
They are ready to eat after 24 hours and will continue to pickle in the refrigerator. Try to enjoy these pickles within a month or so.