Traditional pickling requires heating your kitchen for hours while boiling gallons of water, sterilizing special jars and lids with specific rules about sealing them to ensure that canned food stays safe for months.
Then there’s “quick pickling.”
“All you need is clean jars and lids,” Debra McVicker said as she removed small jars, lids and rings from her dishwasher in preparation for her class “Pickles!” “Even plastic food storage containers with lids can be used. These (pickles) need to be refrigerated. The jars are to just look like you’ve canned them. It’s not actually canning. These are ready to eat today.”
Quick pickling preserves veggies and fruits in a simple brine of water, vinegar (or other acid) and salt (sometimes also sugar), storing them in the refrigerator. Practically instant pickles.
I was all in.
In McVicker’s two-hour session, part of her Chef’s Table Cooking Classes, we each made and took home six jars of tangy, sweet and savory pickled onions, carrots, corn, shrimp and cherries, and bread and butter pickles.
Before we started slicing, chopping, pitting and stuffing our jars, McVicker went over some tips for making these speedy recipes.
“You’ll need a 1-to-1 ratio of vinegar to water,” she said. “You can use white vinegar, white wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar. White vinegar will need to be balanced with more sugar. Don’t use balsamic vinegar. It’s not acidic enough.
“Depending on your tastes, use peppercorns, garlic cloves, cloves, fennel seeds, juniper berries, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, citrus zest, fresh and dried herbs. Use your imagination.”
Cortney Smith, co-owner of Gather — A Food Studio, recently taught a class on making Cuban sandwiches, including the kosher dill condiment.
“This recipe is designed to be processed in a hot water bath,” she said. “However, it can be made like a quick pickle and used up within a week safely. Keep them in the refrigerator.”
In keeping with the lively flavor profile of the Cubano sandwich, Smith jazzed up her recipe by adding pieces of horseradish root and a whole dried red pepper to the cucumbers. Grape leaves from her garden were stuffed in the jar too.
“The grape leaves react with the cucumber to make them crispy,” she said.
With gardens and farmers markets hitting their peak, why not load up on some extra produce to turn into pickles? They’re perfect for any dish that needs a jolt of vinegary tang, a punch of chili pepper heat or a salty finish.
Oh, and don’t toss the remaining pickling juice. It’s just what the doctor ordered for making marinades for chicken or to liven up a vinaigrette. It’s even what some bartenders ordered. The brine is sometimes used in drinks such as bloody marys.