Pickling is an ancient art used to preserve vegetables long before modern refrigeration methods existed.
Cucumbers stand out as the star of the pickling world, but your local market’s produce aisle is a bounty of jar-ready goodness just waiting for an ambitious home chef to brine them to perfection.
Prepare Your Vegetables
First, you need to decide what you want to preserve.
Some of the most popular options include beans, garlic, onions, and artichoke hearts, but you can mix things up with any firm-textured fruit or vegetable you think you’d like.
No matter what you choose, ensure that the produce is washed well to remove any bacteria that might lead to spoilage.
Gather the Essential Supplies
Pickling isn’t an expensive hobby, but there are a few upfront costs to consider.
Investing in high-quality tools and supplies ensures that your work won’t go to waste or unintentionally make your family ill.
- Self-sealing jars
- Vinegar with an acidity of at least 5%
- Pickling or canning salt
- Canning boiler and rack (only if you’re planning on long-term preservation)
- Spices and seasonings, such as ginger, garlic, dill, basil, etc.
Now that you’ve gathered everything you need, it’s time to get started!
If you’re planning on enjoying your veggies in the next 3-4 weeks, refrigerator pickling is a fast and easy method for making expert-level pickles:
- Sterilize all of your jars in boiling water.
- Cut your produce into pieces small enough to fit in the jar. Most recipes indicate a specific amount of “headspace,” or room for a layer of brine between the veggies and the lid, so take that into account.
- Combine vinegar, salt, water, and seasonings in a pot. Bring to a boil.
- Carefully pour the hot brine over the cut veggies in the jar.
- Seal the jars and store in the refrigerator to rest for at least a week.
Water Bath Canning
- For long-lasting preserves, you’ll need to use the water bath canning method.
- Fill your stock pot or canning boiler ⅔ full of water and let it come to a gentle boil.
- Follow steps 1-4 for refrigerator pickling.
- Before sealing the jars, gently tap the sides to release any bubbles in the brine.
- Wipe the rim of the jar with a paper towel, then carefully place the lid on the jar. Be very careful not to touch the underside, as this could introduce bacteria. Screw on the outer band.
- Put the jars on the canning rack and lower it into the gently boiling water. Follow your recipe’s directions for timing.
- Carefully remove the jars by lifting the rack and placing it down on a towel.
- Cool the jars for up to 24 hours, check that the sealing button on the lid is depressed, and store in a cool, dry spot for up to one year.
Whether you’re pickling onions to up your Taco Tuesday game or just want to keep a jar of garlic-spiced pickled cucumbers on hand for snacking, learning how to brine your produce properly is a worthwhile skill.