- Author: Dayna Ravalin, UCCE Master Food Preserver Program Coordinator
- Editor: Katherine Soule, Youth, Families, and Communities Advisor
It is that time of the year when gardens are still producing, but maybe starting to slow down. Are you tired of canning and dehydrating your harvest? It's been so hot; I know I'm looking for any excuse not to heat up my kitchen. There is a simple fix, and it's called REFRIGERATOR PICKLED VEGETABLES! Pickling is not just for cucumbers, although they are delicious too! This simple ingredient and equipment light preservation method can be helpful in managing some of our seasonal abundance, or just give us a reason to make something delicious.
Cleanliness is important. Make sure and wash your hands with soap and water (20 seconds please). Clean all your kitchen surfaces before you get started. Make sure and clean your produce well. It's simple. Use only running water. You should never use soap, bleach, or any other types of cleaners on your produce.
First things first. Once you decide what produce you want to pickle, you will also want to decide what spices you would like to include. My favorite is mustard seeds, oregano, black peppercorns, chili flakes, and garlic. But this is where you can really individualize your pickles! Remember to use only whole spices to help keep the brine nice and clear, using powdered spices can make your brine look a bit on the cloudy, muddy side. Keep your dried spices to about 2TBSP. per quart jar. If you are using fresh, you can bump that up a little. You don't want the spices to overwhelm the fresh vegetable flavor.
Your choice of vinegar is also important. Use one with 5% acidity for safety. It's OK to use apple cider or even a white wine vinegar as long as the label states it has 5% acidity. I like white distilled vinegar. I think it keeps the flavor profile cleaner and doesn't interfere with the spices I choose to add. But it's up to you.
Prepare your jars or containers before you get your brine ready. I like to use canning jars, but it's not necessary. You can use any food grade container that has a tight-fitting lid. Wash them in hot soapy water and rinse well. Allow to air dry while you are preparing the vegetables and brine.
In the meantime, get your veggies prepared into the shapes and sizes you prefer. If your cut pieces are too big, the brine won't penetrate as well, and if they are cut too small, they may become too soft. You can pack your jars using two different methods:
- Place all the cut vegetables into a bowl and pour your hot brine over them. Allow to steep at room temperature for about 30 minutes and then pack them into the prepared jars.
- Pack your jars with the cut vegetables and spices first and pour the hot brine over the vegetables.
To make the brine, add the water, vinegar, sugar, spices, and salt into a stainless-steel saucepan and bring to a boil. (I like to add my spices into the brine to be heated together. Heating the brine and spices together seems to allow the spices to release their flavor a bit better this way. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Leave about 1 inch of headspace (space from the top of the brine to the top of the jar) to prevent overflow and spillage. Lid the jars or containers and place into the refrigerator. They should be ready to eat within 24-48 hours. These will keep for a couple weeks in your refrigerator if they last that long! These pickled vegetables keep their vibrant color and retain more crunch than a traditionally canned giardiniere or cucumber pickle.
Of course eating them from the jar is great, but try adding them to a fresh green salad, use as a crunchy addition to a charcuterie board, chopped into a cold pasta salad, or added to a sandwich in place of lettuce. The possibilities are limitless!
Here is a basic recipe for the brine enough for about 2-quart size jars:
3 cups of white or apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
3 cups of water
3 TBSP. canning salt
2 TBSP. granulated sugar
2 TBSP. dried spices (your choice)
- Add all ingredients into a stainless-steel saucepan, bring to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Pour spiced brine over cut vegetables in a bowl and allow to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. *
- Pack jars with vegetables and pour the spiced brine over them to within 1 inch of jar top.
- Lid jars/containers and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 day before eating. Store in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
*Jars can be packed with vegetables and spices first and then hot brine without spices can be poured over the top immediately. Lid and store as stated above.