Summer is in full force and now is the time to visit your local farmers market for fresh, seasonal produce. If you are anything like me, you tend to go a little overboard and buy way more produce than you can use right away. Luckily there are easy and delicious ways to preserve your summer veggies.
Growing up in the Midwest, pickling was a way for my family to preserve summer vegetables and enjoy them year-round. Now that I have a little more foodie experience under my belt, I have discovered the wonderful world of quick pickling.
I promise this is not your grandmother’s way of pickling!
Just remember, when it comes to pickling there really are no hard-and-fast rules. You pick the ingredients and you pick the spices. But here are a few pointers to get you started on your pickling journey:
- Wash your produce and jars thoroughly.
- Cut vegetables into uniform sizes and trim any stems or ends off. Thinner cuts will pickle faster.
- Vinegar is what preserves vegetables; use different kinds to achieve a variety of flavors.
- Use kosher or pickling salt for best results; regular table salt will produce cloudy brine.
- Add sweeteners like sugar, honey or maple syrup to balance the acidity if desired.
- Fresh or dried herbs work well in brines.
- Add purified water for milder pickling brines.
- Boiling your brine first will result in softer vegetables. Let it cool if you want more crispness or skip it all together.
- Add any oils to your brine last.
- The longer your pickled vegetables sit, the more intense their flavors will become.
If you have shied away from making pickle vegetables then you are missing out on some really amazing homemade sandwich toppers. I know it seems like an intimidating process, but it is easier than you think. If you have different kinds of vinegars and oils, kosher salt, sugar, a variety of your favorite seasonings like dried oregano, celery seeds and peppercorns, plus fresh herbs, then you are good to go.
My absolute favorite part of the pickling process is that there are no specific recipes. Really, I promise! You can search for giardiniera, which is a mix of pickled vegetables found in Italian cooking, and no two recipes are the same.
We love this spicy mix on top of a good Italian beef sandwich so I always add Serrano peppers. Cauliflower, carrots, celery and bell peppers; they are a good base to start with. And don’t forget to add a few pepperoncino peppers on top of this sandwich for a classic Chicago feel.
A recent addition to our sandwich rotation is a Vietnamese bánh mì with tender pork and a spicy chili mayo. My husband’s favorite part is the pickled carrots, cucumbers and daikon radishes that we pile on top. Rice vinegar and a little sesame oil make this super easy brine extra tasty. Fresh cilantro and slices of Serrano peppers give this sandwich a real kick.
Yes, we love all things spicy. But the beauty of pickling is you can customize your mix however you want. Love radishes more than life itself? Then go crazy and max out on them. Does a traditional, all-American hot dog with pickle relish and hot spicy mustard make your heart sing?
Then grab your favorite homemade spice-blend and get to pickling! I like to keep a jar of celery seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, peppercorns and red pepper flake pre-mixed and ready to go at a moments notice. We like our relish on the crunchy side so I don’t cook it down like a more traditional relish, but once again, make these recipes your own!
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