Pickling is one of those things that I’ve always shied away from in the summer. Mostly I feared that I would go through all kinds of effort, and then the jars would sit unopened, languishing until mid-winter, until someone would finally decide that they wanted the jars for another project and dump everything out. I just couldn’t see spending the time on pickling if it would go to waste. But this summer I decided to conquer my fears and decide whether or not I was overreacting. The verdict? Yes – overreacting. Pickling is super-easy, and if you make the items to your family’s taste (in our case, bell peppers and red onions were the key), the food will be gone in an instant.
First things first – There are lots of pickle recipes out there but you really don’t need a recipe. OK, if you really want a recipe I like this one from The Kitchn for its straightforwardness and flexibility. But the bottom line is, all you really need to remember is a 1:1 ratio for water to cider vinegar; and for every cup of water and cider vinegar you’ll want about 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt. That’s it! Really!
Of course you can pickle regular cucumbers, but this year for kicks I also pickled these mini watermelon cucumbers from Melissa’s Produce (available in stores August through October – ask your grocer.) They make the perfect bite-sized snack pickle. I also pickled some orange bell peppers, red onions, and yellow summer squash. To flavor each of these vegetables, I added peppercorns for color and fresh dill weed for flavor, and a little garlic. Often people add mustard seed, or coriander seed, or dill seed, or celery seed, or some spicy red pepper. But if you don’t have those things, it’s OK. You will still have good-tasting pickles.
So here’s what you do – let’s say for two 8-ounce jars of pickles. Clean and sterilize the two jars for canning. Put a small handful of peppercorns, a clove of garlic, a strand of fresh dill weed, and any other spices you like in each of the jars. Slice up one large cucumber (or two bell peppers, or one red onion, or one large summer squash, or your vegetable of choice) into thin spears. Pack the spears tightly in the jars, and set the jars aside. Boil one cup of water with one cup of cider vinegar and 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt. When the mixture comes to a rolling boil, pour it carefully over each of the jars until it reaches 1/2 inch from the top. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the rings until they are tight.
At this point if you want to process the jars, you can – placing them for 5 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. If you want to skip that step, however, simply let them cool and store them in the refrigerator. Let them sit for 48 hours before you open them up. They should last for several weeks in the refrigerator.
Now comes the fun part – the eating! Our kids enjoyed sampling each of the different pickles, especially the mini cucumber pickles. But when we put our colorful pickled goodies on turkey sandwiches, it was a revelation. Within minutes, everyone was scrambling for the last pickled pepper and onion. We called them “rainbow sandwiches” and now that’s all they’ve been asking for at lunchtime. OK, back to more pickling…