Plant Based 411
PDQ Pickled Vegetables
By Nancy Eisman
You know that small plate or bowl of complimentary pickles that some delis plop on your table soon after you sit down? While some people always go for the classic sour dill variety, my favorite has always been the “new” or half-pickled pickles. Closer to a marinated cucumber than to the long fermented dill of kosher pickle fame, there’s something about the bright green, fresher style that I crave.
Americans consume over 5 million pounds of pickled cucumbers each year, mostly out of jars sold at the grocery store. The old-style, long fermenting methods made the process time consuming and messy. You can’t duplicate the intense pucker you get from the classic, but if that’s not your goal then you’re in for a great hack. Pickling has been made easier, i.e., quick pickles, aka quickles, and millions of pounds of cucumbers and other vegetables are now being pickled pretty darn quick.
In recent years I’ve also come to really enjoy the different presentations of pickled vegetables that you find at Mexican restaurants and on Asian menus, among other international cuisines. Again, these crispy, tangy mélanges are quick-pickled for wonderful flavor and crunch. They also deliciously demonstrate that pickling isn’t only for cucumbers, but for any firm, seasonal vegetable you like.
Basically a single vegetable or a mixed array in a brine solution of salt and water is where this method of pretty darn quick preserving begins. Vinegar and sugar are also needed to add flavor, plus some combination of spices to take the chosen veggies in different flavor directions. For example, fresh jalapeno + lime + cilantro give veggies a Mexican flair. Star anise, ginger, and mirin flavor veggies like daikon, long beans, and snow peas in Shanghai style. Coriander, parsley, and preserved lemon will transport sweet peppers, cucumbers, and carrots on a magic carpet to Marrakesh.
Other veggies for quick pickles include radishes, pearl onions, green beans, asparagus, cauliflower, kohlrabi, okra, and snap peas. For this recipe I chose Melissa’s Mini Cucumbers, Jalapeños, and Baby French, White, and Purple Carrots, which was not only what was on hand but a great simple, basic mixture.
Distilled water is best, but other water is ok, and the vinegar can be white, apple cider, rice wine, or champagne, as long as it’s clear or light in color. The spices and/or herbs you use are in large part based on personal preference, or the cuisine you’re trying to complement, but mustard seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves, and dried chiles are pretty standard. To make quick pickles even easier, Melissa’s Pickling Spices are the perfect combination of 10 spices and herbs to turn fresh produce into fresh, crunchy pickled vegetables PDQ.
Now you know what to do with extra vegetables from the market, in your weekly produce box, or picked from your garden. Cut veggies. Boil brine. Add spices. Fill jar. Refrigerate. Enjoy. Whether you top your sandwich or taco, add to your salad or grain bowl, enjoy as a snack, or munch while sipping your favorite beverage as the sun goes down, PDQ pickled veggies are the cold, crispy, tangy, crunchy, juicy counterpoint that makes just about everything taste better.
PDQ Pickled Veggies
Glass jar with lid (quart size)
Equal parts Distilled water and Rice vinegar
3 tablespoons kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons Melissa’s Pickling Spices
4-5 cups mixture of Melissa’s Mini Cucumbers (sliced), Jalapenos, (cut into rings) and Baby French, White, and Purple Carrots (cleaned, trimmed and cut into chunks)
½ can cracked green olives
3 cloves garlic, halved
Half fill the jar with water; fill the other half with vinegar, then transfer the liquid to a saucepan. Add the salt and sugar, bring to a boil, boil for 2 minutes, and then remove from the heat. Cool for 10 minutes.
Place the mixed veggies, garlic, and pickling spices in the jar, and shake to mix. Pour the liquid into the jar until full to ½ inch below the top. Leave on the counter to cool completely. Refrigerate. Check on the flavor in about 2 days, and adjust seasoning sweetness and/or heat if you like. PDQ Pickled Veggies will stay fresh for up to 1 month when refrigerated.