Cool, briny pickles straight from the fridge are one of the simplest pleasures of summer. Quick pickling is also a brilliant solution for preserving a plethora of vegetables from the market or your garden. Quick pickling doesn't require canning or a bushel of vegetables. Best of all, you can adapt this simple formula for any fresh vegetables; try a mixture of vinegars and spices for a truly custom pickle pleasure.
What Is a Quick Pickle?
Quick pickles are also known as refrigerator pickles. They are simply vegetables that are pickled in a vinegar, water, and salt (sometimes sugar, too) solution and stored in the refrigerator. Quick pickles don't develop the deep flavor that fermented pickles do, but they also only require a few days in the brine before they can be enjoyed. Quick pickles also do not require canning when refrigerated.
Get the Basics: Easiest Refrigerator Pickles
Fresh Is Best
Pickling is best done with super-fresh vegetables. Save the slightly bruised specimens for soups or other forms of preservation. Almost any vegetable can be pickled, and the shape you choose to pickle in is entirely up to you. For example, carrots can be peeled and sliced into matchsticks or coins. Cherry tomatoes are best preserved whole. Green vegetables, such as green beans or asparagus, can be blanched in boiling water for two to three minutes and then shocked in an ice bath to preserve their color, but this step is purely optional.
Achieve Better Texture: 5 Ways to Give Your Pickles Better Texture
Preparing Vegetables for Pickling
- Thinly slice: cucumbers, summer squash, ginger, red onion
- Cut into spears: carrots, cucumbers
- Peel: carrots
- Blanch: green beans (optional, but helps preserve their color)
For quick pickles, a basic brine is equal parts vinegar and water, but you can adjust the ratio to your preference. Any basic vinegar is game — white vinegar, apple cider, white wine, and rice vinegar all work well. You can use these vinegars alone or in combination. Steer clear of aged or concentrated vinegars like balsamic or malt vinegar for pickling.
Learn More: 5 Essential Vinegars for Your Pantry
Customized Pickle Flavors
The secret to a really unique, flavorful pickle is in the spices you add to the brine. Dill pickles are nothing more than cucumbers flavored with garlic, dill seed, and red pepper flakes. Carrots become more exotic when pickled with coriander, ginger, turmeric, and thyme. Other classic combinations include green beans with garlic and fresh dill, cherry tomatoes with black peppercorns and garlic, and squash with onion and garlic.
Get a Recipe: How To Make Dill Pickles
Flavoring Quick Pickles
- Fresh herbs: dill, thyme, oregano, and rosemary hold up well
- Dried herbs: thyme, dill, rosemary, oregano, or majoram
- Garlic cloves: smashed for mild garlic flavor, or sliced for stronger garlic flavor
- Fresh ginger: peeled and thinly sliced
- Whole spices: mustard seed, coriander, peppercorns, red pepper flakes
- Ground spices: turmeric or smoked paprika are great for both color and flavor
How To Quick Pickle Any Vegetable
What You Need
1 pound fresh vegetables, such cucumbers, carrots, green beans, summer squash, cherry tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh herbs, such as thyme, dill, or rosemary (optional)
1 to 2 teaspoons whole spices, such black peppercorns, coriander, or mustard seeds (optional)
1 teaspoon dried herbs or ground spices (optional)
2 cloves garlic, smashed or sliced (optional)
1 cup vinegar, such as white, apple cider, or rice
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt or 2 teaspoons pickling salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)
2 wide-mouth pint jars with lids
Canning funnel (optional)
- Prepare the jars: Wash 2 wide-mouth pint jars, lids, and rings in warm soapy water and rinse well. Set aside to dry, or dry completely by hand.
- Prepare the vegetables: Wash and dry the vegetables. Peel carrots. Trim the end of beans. Cut vegetables into desired shapes and sizes.
- Add the flavorings: Divide the herbs, spices, or garlic you are using into the jars.
- Add the vegetables: Pack the vegetables into the jars, making sure there is a 1/2 inch of space from the rim of the jar to the tops of the vegetables. Pack them in as tightly as you can without smashing.
- Make the pickling liquid: Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar (if using) in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour the brine over the vegetables, filling each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top. You might not use all the brine.
- Remove air bubbles: Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more pickling brine if necessary.
- Seal the jars: Place the lids over the jars and screw on the rings until tight.
- Cool and refrigerate: Let the jars cool to room temperature. Store the pickles in the refrigerator. The pickles will improve with flavor as they age — try to wait at least 48 hours before cracking them open.
- Storage: These pickles are not canned. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. If you process and can the jars, they can be stored at room temperature unopened.