fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Quick pickles inspire quicker consumption

View all photos
Easy refrigerator dill pickles start with fresh pickling cucumbers, which are widely available at farmers markets in late summer. [Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Old-fashioned bread and butter pickles are flavored with brown sugar and onion, with turmeric adding a lovely golden hue. [Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Pickled peaches are easy to make and will add a surprising, summery tang to ice cream or pound cake. [Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Pickled peaches are easy to make and will add a surprising, summery tang to ice cream or pound cake. [Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Fast, easy recipes aren’t confined to cucumbers

Adoration of pickles amid ambivalence toward cucumbers may seem a strange contradiction.

Most of my adult years, however, were spent in that contrary camp. Commercially canned pickles were pantry staples while I shrugged my shoulders at fresh-picked, garden-grown cucumbers, specifically the lemon variety my family favors.

Then I came to appreciate cucumbers’ utility during a time of year when green salads start fading from our menus. A bowl of quick-pickled cucumbers on my family’s table constitutes a palate-cleansing side dish with just about any summer meal: roast chicken, Thai curry, turkey meatloaf, even homemade macaroni and cheese with sautéed chard or collard greens. And that’s before we even consider layering them on burgers or sandwiches.

I probably should thank my younger son, a veggie lover but particular aficionado of all things pickled. Raw turnip and onion tempt his appetite, even more as pickles. Taking a cue from traditional Mexican taquerias, I expanded our quick pickles to carrots and radishes. Chiles I already pickled in bigger batches near the end of gardening season for longer refrigerator storage.

But small-batch preserving safeguards the home cook’s and gardener’s schedule at the height of summer’s yield. Slice a couple of cucumbers and combine with a cup of salted and sweetened vinegar. That’s it. I don’t even bother transferring them to a jar unless there’s leftovers — a rarity after family mealtime.

Pickling in small batches — and quick consumption — also suits lemon cucumbers, which are too seedy and juicy to hold up for long brined in the refrigerator. After a few days, they start to disintegrate. So for a product that keeps for up to a month, I choose a true pickling variety, although common slicing types and even Persian and Armenian cucumbers work well for just a couple of pints of pickles.

Because these pickle aren’t intended for long-term storage at room temperature, consider the quantities of produce to vinegar solution more of a ratio. Whereas a traditional canning recipe should be strictly followed, there’s wiggle room for foods stored at 40 degrees or colder. Just be sure to wash produce thoroughly and pack into clean, covered — preferably glass — containers.

If you only have a pound or a half-dozen cucumbers, divide the liquid ingredients accordingly. When the quantity of brine is more than I need to cover the vegetables, I save it in the fridge for a future batch. Sugar or salt quantities also can be adjusted without fear of compromising the end product’s safety.

A critical mass of sugar, though, can go a long way toward sweetening lackluster fruit picked unripe and shipped to grocery stores. For stone fruits that won’t soften on the counter but start turning mealy, a quick-pickling solution can salvage them. For ripe — but not soft — peaches, the following recipe brings out their natural sweetness and makes a sweet-tart complement to ice cream and pound cake.

But don’t stop there. I’ve pickled grapes, apples and cranberries in autumn for serving alongside richer meals of the cold season. They’re worth making in bigger batches, perhaps, for enjoying with cheese and charcuterie platters. So are quick cucumber pickles — if you have any left.

Reach features editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or slemon@rosebudmedia.com

Bread and Butter Pickles

2 pounds pickling cucumbers, sliced thin

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1/2 large sweet onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cups sugar

2 cups white vinegar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 to 3 teaspoons mustard seeds

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

In a large, shallow bowl, combine the cucumbers, onions and salt; cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

Remove cucumbers to a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain well and return vegetables to bowl.

In a medium saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and ground turmeric. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves, and cook for 1 minute.

Pour hot vinegar mixture over cucumber mixture. Let cool to room temperature, then ladle into pint jars or other airtight containers and refrigerate 24 hours. Store in an airtight container.

Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

12 pickling cucumbers

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved

3 teaspoons mustard seeds

3 teaspoons peppercorns

1 bunch dill sprigs

4 cups distilled white vinegar

1/2 cup cane sugar

4 tablespoons sea salt

Slice the cucumbers lengthwise into quarters, or eighths, depending on how fat cucumber is and how fat you want pickles. To make dill pickle chips, thinly slice them horizontally.

Divide sliced cucumbers among 4 (8-ounce) glass jars. Divide the garlic, mustard seeds and peppercorns among jars; add a couple of the dill sprigs to each jar.

In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar and salt with 4 cups water; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve, for about 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool slightly and pour over cucumbers. Set jars aside to cool to room temperature, then place in refrigerator.

Pickles will get more flavorful the longer they sit in the fridge. They can be stored for several weeks.

Quick Red Onion Pickle

1 medium red onion (about 8 ounces), peeled

1 cup white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 teaspoons spices, such as black or pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds or juniper berries (optional)

Have ready a spotlessly clean 1 1/2-cup glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Using a sharp knife or mandoline, cut the onion into slices 1/8 inch thick, working your way from stem end to root. Put onion slices in a colander in sink, separating slices into rings.

Pour 3 cups boiling water over onion rings. Pack them into jar.

In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and spices, if using, and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Pour into jar, tamp down onion rings so they are fully immersed and close lid. Cool on counter completely before using, for 1 to 2 hours (but flavor will improve over next 2 days). Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Recipe from “Tasting Paris” by Clotilde Dussoulier.

Quick Pickled Peaches

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces

4 large, slightly firm peeled peaches

In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients, except the peaches, with 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Remove from heat; let stand for 10 minutes. Cut each peach into 12 wedges. Add peaches to vinegar mixture and let stand for 20 minutes. Remove peaches with a slotted spoon.

Makes about 2 cups.

— Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from cookinglight.com

Quick Pickled Apples

1 cup white-wine vinegar

1 cup honey

2 cinnamon sticks

1 tablespoon whole allspice berries

1 teaspoon salt

1 whole nutmeg, cracked

1 vanilla bean, split

1 1/2 pounds sweet/tart apples such as Braeburn or Gala

In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar and honey with 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the cinnamon, allspice, salt, nutmeg and split vanilla bean. Cover and simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes to marry flavors.

While liquid is simmering, core and quarter the apples (they do not have to be peeled). Slice each quarter lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place in a nonreactive bowl.

After liquid has simmered, remove it from heat and pour liquid and spices over apples. Weight apples down using a heavy plate so they stay submerged in liquid.

Refrigerate apples for at least a day to give flavors time to develop. Pickles will last, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

Makes a generous quart.

Quick Pickled Cranberries

2 cups cider vinegar

2 cups water

2 cups maple syrup

3 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon whole cloves

4 whole star anise

Zest of 2 oranges (zest cut into long strips using a vegetable peeler or knife)

About 1 tablespoon very thinly sliced fresh ginger rounds

2 (10-ounce) bags fresh cranberries (or frozen, thawed)

In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar and maple syrup with 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the cinnamon, cloves, star anise, orange zest and ginger. Cover and simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes to marry flavors. Add the cranberries to liquid. As soon as liquid comes to a simmer once again, remove from heat.

Pour cranberries, liquid and spices into a nonreactive bowl. Weight cranberries down using a heavy plate so they stay submerged in liquid.

Refrigerate cranberries for at least a day to give flavors time to develop. Pickles will last, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

Makes a generous quart.