How to Pickle Anything – Quickly!
Pickling is a preserving technique meant to prolong the life of a harvest’s bounty. Pickles are traditionally made by soaking ingredients in brine made of vinegar, water, herbs, and spices for an extended length of time. For example, it takes at least a week for a fresh cucumber to become a beloved dill pickle, and up to 20 days to transform fresh cabbage into tangy sauerkraut.
Flavor-wise, the tang in pickling is a powerful culinary component. A touch of acid in food can transform a dish and it is needed for balance. Acid serves to brighten flavor, making food taste alive and fresh. It is especially good to cut through heavy and rich flavors like fat (think pickles on a burger).
Chef Hugh Acheson, author of Pick a Pickle cookbook, said, “A great pickle has balance of natural sweetness to acidity. Bad pickles are too salty or too sweet or too acidic.”
Pickles also change over time. That’s why it’s important to taste your work as you go because sometimes pickles are at their best after several weeks in the brine, while other times the flavor is superior after just a few days.
Then there is the quick-pickle — the kind of pickle that's ready in less than 24 hours, and sometimes in only minutes. One way to speed up the process is to eliminate the water component in the brine. That way, acid is in direct contact with the ingredient so pickling is nearly instantaneous.
Ready to try? Here are some ingredients perfect for quick-pickling — plus some recipes to try them with!
Rachael Pack is Cook Editor of The Daily Meal. Follow her on Instagram @rachael_pack