Making your own pickles
IN THE world of summer barbecues, the pickle hardly plays a starring role.
Truth to be told, "hold the pickles" is my standard order, as I am not a fan of pickles on a cheeseburger, nor do I particularly care for pickle juice leaking on to my sandwich bread at a deli.
But home-made quick pickles made from a variety of fresh veggies, not just cucumbers, are a completely different story! Quick pickles are made in minutes, not days, so the veggies stay crisper than store-bought versions. And since you control the ingredients, you can customise your pickles to make them as tart, sweet, sour, spicy or salty as you want.
Make one batch, and you'll immediately know how to adjust the flavours to your liking. You can even make a variety of pickling flavours easily - add extra smashed garlic cloves and red pepper flakes to the green beans and bump up the vinegar to give cauliflower floret pickles extra pucker. You can even pickle fruit - sliced lemon, pineapple chunks, halved cherry tomatoes all make tangy toppings for grilled meats and spicy dishes, for example.
The home-made pickle is a far more versatile actor than its commercially produced cousin. Try serving a variety of lightly pickled veggies with dip instead of the expected crudite.
Imagine a veritable mini-buffet of brightly coloured pickled veggies in mason jars set up next to the condiments at your next barbecue. Bring along a jar or two to someone else's party this summer as a healthy hostess gift.
Or, just keep a jar or two in your fridge for snacking. The basic recipe is easy enough to keep your fridge stocked, too. Just six simple pantry ingredients are needed: vegetable, vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic and a herb or spice. Which means home-made pickles can probably be on your menu tonight without even a trip to the store.
Start to finish: 15 minutes
1/2 cup white vinegar
1tbs kosher salt
6 smashed garlic cloves
1tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or other spice or herb, such a mustard seed, celery seed, or dill)
2 cups vegetables, approximately, trimmed to fit in two 1-pint mason jars
Special equipment: Two mason jars (one-pint size).
1. Heat the vinegar, salt and sugar in a sauce pan with two cups of water and bring to a boil and stir until salt and sugar dissolve, about two minutes.
2. Meanwhile, place the garlic and red pepper flakes at the bottom of the mason jars, and add the trimmed vegetables. Pour the boiling pickling liquid into the jars to cover the vegetables completely. (You should have enough water, but if not, boil a little extra plain water and add).
3. Cover the jars and let the vegetables sit until cool enough to eat. Store in refrigerator. Best if eaten within a week.