August 31, 2020

Elliott Papineau

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How to Make Quick Pickles

Right now, you want something cool, crisp, and refreshing

When I first started growing produce, my gardens were smaller and so was my ambition. But after a few seasons of bountiful harvests, the type that might involve fifty zucchini, twice as many cucumbers, and too many tomatoes to count, I started thinking about preserving and canning.

First, I read about safety, delving into books that explain what makes a pickle or preserve shelf-stable. Those resources are helpful if you want to line the shelves of your larder to sustain life until the fawns of spring bound out of the forest. I canned corn, tomatoes, cabbage, beans, pickles, and on and on, according to standard practice. When I opened those jars in the depths of winter, though, I just craved the perfect produce of summer.

How to Make Quick Pickles - Quote

I want to pop a jar of cucumber pickles out of the refrigerator, take a chip from the top of the brine, and crunch down on it before adding more to the burger I just took off the fire.

That got me thinking about a better way to preserve—moving past white vinegar and dry, dusty spices and building flavor inside the jar, to make the harvest contained inside a perpetual gift to your senses. You can do that for processed pickles, but you have to be cautious when adapting any recipe that calls for water-bath processing. Plus, it’s still summer, so I don’t want to think about the dull grey of winter. I want to pop a jar of cucumber pickles out of the refrigerator, take a chip from the top of the brine, and crunch down on it before adding more to the burger I just took off the fire.

This is a summer pickle. It’s an extension of what is in the field. We can discuss long-term preservation another time, but right now, I want something cool, crisp, and refreshing that reminds me why I started down this path in the first place.

Here are few easy steps to improve your refrigerator pickles:

  • Swap out the plastic jug of distilled white vinegar (use that to make window cleaner instead) for something that tastes good on its own. Think about apple, white wine, rice, or champagne vinegar. Don’t be afraid to mix vinegars together.
  • Toast dry spices. Dill seed, black peppercorn, dry chiles, and fennel seed all benefit from a quick and invigorating toast in a hot pan before use.
  • Add fresh versions of the dried herbs in a typical recipe. Fresh tarragon, dill, fennel, rosemary, or basil all outperform their dried counterparts.
  • Substitute refined white sugar for a healthier, more nuanced, and more local sweetener such as honey or maple syrup.

The Farm Master Brine

Makes enough for 6-8 quarts of pickles

Use this brine for a variety of pickles. I’ve put okra, green beans, onions, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and all kinks of peppers into jars with this brine.

1 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
1 cup rice vinegar
½ cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. kosher salt
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. toasted coriander seeds
2 tsp. toasted fennel seeds
1 tsp. toasted black peppercorns
1 smoked, dried chili per jar (I use smoked togarashi)
1-2 cloves garlic per jar
1 sprig fresh dill per jar
1 sprig fresh tarragon per jar

To prolong the life of your pickles, sterilize your jars by boiling them for at least 10 minutes, then hold them in an oven at 200 degrees until ready to use.

Put 4 cups water, vinegars, salt and sugar into a stockpot. Bring to a boil.

Divide the toasted spices, chiles, garlic, and fresh herbs into sterilized quart jars. Pack each jar with extremely fresh produce. Feel free to mix up the seasoning. Try adding some onion or fresh peppers to ratchet up the flavor.

Pour the hot brine over the produce until the contents are completely covered, to the shoulder of the jar. Wipe the mouth of the jar with a clean towel. Dry the rings and lids with a clean towel and secure the lids.

Let the jars cool completely on the counter before moving to a refrigerator. Enjoy your fresh packed pickles the next day or let the flavor to develop for up to three months.


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