This article was originally published in September 2014
Quick pickles are a satisfyingly easy way to preserve summer’s flavors to enjoy in a cooler season. They’re different from water bath canned pickles in that they’re not shelf-stable — you keep them in your fridge — but they also keep your vegetables crisper and closer to their fresh state. Fruit adapts well to quick pickling too, particularly with the addition of warm spices like cinnamon sticks.
What you need to know
Refrigerator pickles aren’t complicated, but mistakes can still happen. Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you try them out.
Wash your jars
Whether they’re brand new or from a thrift store or friend, start with clean, dry jars. If you’re reusing jars, be sure to check around the rims for sticky residue; even after a trip through the dishwasher, sometimes this can hide under the lip and lead to mold or bacteria getting into the jar.
The brine is fine
Making a brine is the process of dissolving plenty of salt in a liquid to give it flavor and preservative properties. For pickles, the liquid of choice is vinegar, which provides the necessary acidity to cure the vegetables and fruits and change their texture and flavor. Changing the proportions of these two ingredients can lead to food-wasting mishaps.
The size and color of your produce doesn’t really matter — but blemishes do, so check for bruises. Wash your fruits and vegetables and check them over, then slice or chop everything to a similar size, so they’ll have the same texture after pickling. If using citrus, organic, unwaxed skins are the way to go. Otherwise, scrub them under very hot water to remove the wax.
Pick a peck of pickles
Try these five delicious quick pickle recipes, for everything from quick preserved lemons to the ever-popular dilly bean.
Quick tip: Sweet as can be
If you like your pickles a little on the sweet side, add more sugar to the vinegar. Never reduce the vinegar in a recipe — this is what helps keep your pickles pickled (and keeps us safe).