4 Bites: Quick summer pickles
Quick pickles (or fridge pickles) are vegetables pickled in vinegar, water, salt, sugar and spices, then stored in the fridge for summer scoffing, which is just about as long as they should last. Most of the season’s bounty can be pickled. Super-fresh vegetables work best, cut into any shape you desire.
Starting with a basic brine of equal parts vinegar to water, you can adjust the ratio to your preference. Add more vinegar if you like a piquant pickle, or less if want them milder. White, apple cider, white wine and rice vinegars will all do the job.
Basic pickling brine
- 1 cup white or cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 2-4 Tbsp sugar (optional)
- Herbs, aromatics and spices (according to taste)
Flavouring the pickles
Use whole spices, fresh herbs and punchy aromatics to flavour your pickles. Fresh bay or kaffir leaves, dill, thyme, oregano and tarragon are all good starters, alongside mustard, dill, coriander, cumin and fennel seeds. Garlic, ginger, lemongrass, peppercorns and chillies are great if you like them bold and spicy. Turmeric, mustard powder and smoked paprika will add colour as well as flavour. You can also use your favourite ground spice blends. For Christmas pickles try a mix of cinnamon bark, cloves, star anise, allspice and citrus peel. They make great gifts.
Green vegetables (asparagus, beans, courgettes) can be blanched first in boiling water and then shocked in ice-cold water to preserve their colour. You can also brine vegetables overnight in salty water, which will draw moisture from them, keeping them crisper once they are pickled.
Cut snack-sized cucumbers into spears to pack into 2 medium-sized sterilised jars, along with fresh dill fronds and stems. Heat ¾ cup white vinegar, 1 cup water, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp salt, 1 tsp each of coriander and dill seeds and 1 tsp peppercorns, until boiling. Fill jars, seal with lids, cool and refrigerate. Eat after 2-3 days. Get the recipe
Slice up a large colourful assortment of fresh chillies (of varying degrees of heat) and toss with a small knob of fresh ginger cut into thin matchsticks and 3 sliced garlic cloves. Pack into 2-3 small sterilised jars. Heat 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup water, 3 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp salt, 1 small piece of cinnamon bark, a couple of cardamom and star anise pods and 3 fresh bay leaves, until boiling. Fill jars, seal with lids, cool and refrigerate. Eat after 2-3 days. Get the recipe
Very thinly slice 1 red onion, 1 white onion and 1 small fennel bulb, inclusive of frond. Toss with a small handful of fresh thyme and pack into 2 medium-sized sterilised jars. Heat 1 cup cider vinegar, ⅔ cup water, the juice of 1 large grapefruit, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp salt and 1 Tbsp mixed coloured peppercorns until boiling. Fill jars, seal with lids, cool and refrigerate. Eat after 2-3 days. Get the recipe
Chop into even-sized pieces an equal amount of asparagus, beans, carrot, cauliflower, celery, coloured capsicums and courgette to fill 2 large (or 4-5 medium) jars. Toss with a handful of green olives, a bunch of chopped coriander or tarragon leaves and stems, 5 cloves smashed garlic and the zest of 2 lemons and pack into the jars. Heat 2 cups white vinegar, 2 cups water, the juice of the lemons, 4 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp salt, 1 Tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp peppercorns and a small bunch of oregano until boiling. Fill jars, leaving a little room to top off with a pour of extra virgin olive oil. Seal with lids, cool and refrigerate. Eat after 2-3 days. Get the recipe