A PERFECT SUMMER APPETIZER: QUICK PICKLED VEGGIES
Summer Friday afternoons: the Workweek (whatever that means during Covid-19) is over, and the Weekend--two whole leisurely, hopefully sunny days of bliss--awaits. At our house we like to kick it off with a cocktail and some appetizers (appies).
My ideal Friday cocktail has ice and no more than three other ingredients—plus the garnish (it’s Friday, keep it simple!) and the appie should be some delicious nibble I can just put on a plate and serve. Homemade pickled veggies are perfect!
Summer veggie options are almost unlimited, and you can pickle a batch or two in as little as half an hour. Let them marinate in the refrigerator for at least a day, and voilà, you have something quick, flavorful, healthy and beautiful to serve! These are also perfect for a picnic and make a lovely hostess gift. This is another Rock Star Recipe!
Quick pickling is a short-term method of preserving and adding flavor to veggies and fruits. This is not the laborious and steamy water-bath canning process that your grandma may have done. Quick pickled items must be refrigerated and can last up to eight weeks. (Just be sure not to pollute the jar using your fingers to get at the goodies.)
The whole process is easy and flexible. Your key ingredients are water, vinegar, salt and sweetener to make the brine; vegetable(s) of choice and seasonings. I use a canning jar with a ring/lid combination because it holds up to the hot liquid. And I often lightly blanch dense veggies to start.
Almost any type of vinegar works, including apple cider, rice, white, or white wine vinegar (my favorite). Sugar or honey sweetens the brine. Lots of summer veggies (and even some fruits) can be pickled. Wash and trim these into spears or coin shapes to fit into your jar.
There’s an almost infinite choice of seasonings: fresh and dried herbs like rosemary, dill, basil, oregano, sage, mint and bay leaves; spices like peppercorns, dried chili flakes, mustard and coriander seeds; garlic, ginger and fresh chilis can also be added. When using dried spices, toasting them briefly enhances their flavor.
For ideas of what seasonings to add with which vegetables, think about how you pair them in your own cooking, or even how they’re used in ethnic foods. Some good flavor combinations include the following:
Carrots with garlic, bay, coriander, mustard seeds or cinnamon;
Asparagus with dill, rosemary or basil;
Cucumbers with dill, coriander, parsley or rosemary;
Onions with thyme and peppercorns;
Red bell peppers with peppercorns, rosemary or thyme;
Green beans with coriander, garlic, mustard, dill, chili flakes or savory;
Beets with cloves, dill, cumin, ginger or basil.
Basic Quick Pickling Recipe
For every 1lb of prepped vegetables, use:
1 cup of water
1 cup of vinegar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1-2 tbsp sugar or honey
Seasonings: use up to 1 tsp of each, or to taste
(Try not to go overboard on seasonings—you still want to taste your veggies!)
Arrange your washed, trimmed and blanched veggies in a jar so they look nice. (Sometimes I do a full jar of one veggie, sometimes I mix a few kinds.) Combine all remaining ingredients in a saucepan, stir, and heat to boiling. This is your brine. To avoid potential disasters, put your jar in the sink and pour the hot brine over the veggies. Tighten the lid and set the jar on a folded kitchen towel to cool for a couple hours. Then refrigerate. That’s it!
Note: Dark or intensely colored vegetables will color your brine. It doesn't affect taste, but keep it in mind if you combine different veggies.