uick Pickling: a Primer
What’s the fastest, easiest way to start pickling? Refrigerator pickles, or quick pickles. These guys aren’t shelf-stable (meaning that they need to stay chilled in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature), and they won’t last as long as canned pickles, but then again they don’t need to because they are so delicious, crisp, and versatile.
Food preservation is in large part about preventing (or constructively channeling) decay. In water bath and pressure canning, high heat, acid, and a vacuum seal inhibit the grow of bacteria. In fermentation, good bacteria turn sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the food product. In quick pickling, the cold of the fridge lets the vinegary flavors of the brine marinate with the fruits or vegetables (and added spices) while forestalling the bacteria growth.
Because quick pickles happen within the constrained environment of the refrigerator, you can use a pickle canning recipe for refrigerator pickles — but never use a fridge pickle recipe for canning, because canning recipes are specially proportioned to inhibit bacteria growth so the food will be shelf stable.
Depending on the recipe, fridge pickles take between three days and a week for the flavor to fully mature, and are usually good for about two weeks.
Here are the basic steps:
- Packing your jars: tightly pack a mason jar (two pint jars or a quart jar) with sliced vegetables (for springtime, think carrots, scallions, green beans, pearl onions, radishes, or asparagus spears).
- Add about a tablespoon of spices to the bottom of the jar (try whole dried spices like peppercorn, fennel, cumin, coriander seed, celery seed, bay leaves, dill seed, mustard seed, garlic cloves, or pre-made pickling spice).
- Create a brine: bring to a boil a cup of vinegar (any kind but balsamic: white, apple cider, rice vinegars are all great!) a cup of water, and a tablespoon of pickling salt, kosher salt, or non-iodized salt. Pour the brine over the vegetables packed in the jars, lightly screw on one or two-piece lids, and put your pickles in the fridge to rest. Taste them as they mature and become infused with flavor. And enjoy your quick pickles!
In addition to these general steps, we want to point you towards the following recipes:
From Marissa McClellan’s Food in Jars, via HollyandFlora.com: