Since the winter CSA season is about to start, maybe it’s time to pick back up with the CSA posts? Instead of the what I got/what I did with it format, from now on I plan to write more generally about ways to use CSA produce. Some posts will be on ideas for using specific vegetables, and some on ways to preserve your produce. We’re starting off with one of the latter: this post is on how to pickle everything.
I love pickles (did you guess?) and there are so many types of pickles beyond the dill and sweet cukes at the grocery store. Most veggies you get in a CSA are candidates for pickling, and you can quick pickle, ferment, or can them. Each type follows the same basic formula: produce + flavor + brine = pickle. The brine, along with the pickling process, varies most among the different pickle types; so we’ll talk about the produce + flavoring aspects first, then break the rest of the process down by type.
This post contains affiliate links.
Almost any vegetable can be pickled – pickle everything! I’ve done cucumbers, carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, beets, summer squash, and jalapenos, and that’s really just scratching the surface. The only things I probably wouldn’t try are ripe tomatoes, leafy greens, and potatoes. I’ve even seen recipes for pickled fruit (some links in the refrigerator and canned pickle recipes), though I have yet to try it myself. Harder vegetables like beets can be cooked before pickling.
There are endless options to add flavor to pickles: garlic cloves, fresh ginger, peppercorns, dill seed, cumin seed, mustard seed, coriander seed, allspice, juniper, cinnamon sticks, and basically anything else in your spice cabinet. Just make sure to use whole spices rather than ground. You can also add fresh herbs and citrus zests.
I’ll go into more detail regarding brines for each type of pickle, but a couple quick notes about the ingredients: any type of vinegar will work except balsamic, and the salt must be non-iodized. Most any sweetener works for sweet pickles, including zero-calorie ones such as stevia; I’m not personally familiar with those, however, so I suggest doing some research if you plan on using one.
Refrigerator (quick) pickles
This the quickest and most fool-proof way to pickle, but you won’t get the same depth of pickle-y flavor as with other types of pickle. But if you just want some pickles ASAP, make a quick pickle (or quickle, as my husband insists on calling them).
Since these pickles go straight to the fridge, you can experiment more with the brine. A common brine ratio is equal amounts of water and vinegar, but with quick pickles you can use less vinegar if that’s your preference. Some recipes use straight vinegar with no water. 1 tsp. salt per 1 cup of liquid is fairly standard, but I’ve seen as little as 1/2 tsp. and as much as 1 tbsp.
None to speak of – just add veggies and flavoring to the jars and pour the brine in after. Some recipes call for boiling and cooling the brine first, especially if it includes sugar; but often it’s fine to just mix and pour. Let the pickles sit in the fridge for a few hours before eating.
Many recipes for refrigerator pickles tell you to eat them within 2-4 weeks; I’ve kept some for up to 6 months, but if you want to be cautious, stick to the one-month guideline. The texture gets more mushy over time, but the acid and salt in the brine will keep the pickles from going bad. As long as there’s no growth, smell, or discoloration, you can eat them. (But when it doubt, throw it out.)
Hibiscus jalapeno quick pickles (the red ones in the image above)
One tablespoon sea salt (or other non-iodized salt) per 2 cups of filtered water. Nope, no vinegar – the fermentation contributes the sour taste here.
Fill a jar about 3/4 full with veggies and flavorings – leave at least an inch of space at the top. Completely dissolve the salt in the water. Pour brine into the jar, making sure the vegetables are completely submerged. If they insist on floating, find something heavy to keep them down – you can use specialized canning weights, or pretty much anything around your kitchen that will fit into the jar, such as a ziploc baggie partially filled with water. Either seal the jar with an airlock (I use these, which fit on standard Mason jars), or cover loosely with the lid or a few layers of cheesecloth.
Store the jar out of direct sunlight to ferment. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the vegetable and how warm it is. Start tasting after 3-4 days, or when you see bubbles rising in the jar. Once the pickles reach your desired sourness, store in the fridge.
Crunchy dill pickles (the ingredients listed to keep the pickles crunchy work in canning too!)
Can you really claim to pickle everything if you haven’t conquered the most intimidating of methods? But really, canning doesn’t have to be intimidating! It requires a few extra steps, but rewards you with shelf-stable pickles you can enjoy for at least a year. Pickles are one of the safest foods for water bath canning due to the acidity of the brine. You also don’t necessarily need any special equipment, as long as you have a pot large enough for your jars to be covered by at least an inch of water.
I recommend using a recipe for your first foray into canning pickles. That said, a standard brine formula is equal parts water and vinegar plus 1 tablespoon pickling or sea salt per 2 cups liquid.
The very first thing you want to do is fill your canning pot with water and start heating it – getting to a full boil can take a long time! Prepare your jars before starting on the pickles – check here to determine whether you need to sterilize or just clean. Use new canning lids and follow directions on the package for preparing them.
Pack veggies and flavorings into the prepared jars and pour brine over, leaving the required amount of headspace (usually 1/2 inch for pint jars). Put the lids and rings on the jars and move them into the canning pot – sturdy, grippy tongs work well for this if you don’t have a jar lifter. Put the lid on the pot, make sure the water is at a full boil, and process – 10 minutes is common for pickles, but of course follow your recipe. If you’re at an altitude above 1,000 feet, you’ll need to process longer to make up for the lower boiling temperature of water – go here for more information.
Once the jars have cooled, put them in a cool, dry place for long-term storage. Store in the fridge after you open the jar.
Garlic dill pickles (my go-to recipe, spears pictured above)
National Center for Home Food Preservation – if you have any doubts about food preservation safety, go here for the most current recommendations.
(The following books are ones I own and use, but there are tons of good ones out there! Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite.)
Preserving by the Pint – includes recipes for small batches of quick and canned pickles.
Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes – in addition to the recipes, a good resource for learning the basics of fermenting.
Are you inspired to pickle everything?
What pickle recipe do you most want to try?