Do you have that friend, who when you’re just about to eat your hamburger, asks, “are you gonna eat that pickle?” Well, I’m that friend, except I like to wait until my friend has taken the first bite before asking. It’s only polite, of course.
I LOVE pickles. All kinds. Sweet, sour, dill, horseradish (probably my favorite), spicy, sweet AND sour, bread and butter, mustard pickles (if that even is a thing), you name it. As much as I am a sweet tooth, I am also equally a sour-fanatic. Vinegar, horseradish, and mustard, of which I could, and frequently do, eat spoonfuls of, are top on my list. So it comes without surprise that I decided to make my own pickles!
The great thing about making your own pickles is:
1. it’s super easy
2. it takes no time to make
3. you can pickle pretty much anything
4. you can adjust the flavors to your taste
5. it lasts a while
6. it looks impressive
Pickling is a great way to play with flavors and seasonal produce. For this recipe, I used rice vinegar, sugar, salt, chili flakes, peppercorns, and sesame oil. You can put, however, whatever herbs, spices, oils, or vinegar you like. Rice vinegar is mild in comparison to white distilled vinegar, which you could definitely use if you are looking for a stronger taste. The chili flakes and peppercorns add a mild kick, while not overpowering the brine. You could use more or less depending on your taste. The sesame oil is added at the end on top of the pickles. It adds a nutty flavor and helps round out the acidity of the brine. I use toasted sesame oil for an enhanced flavor but any oil would do! Sunflower oil would also be a great substitute for this recipe.
The recipe itself is quite simple. All you need to do is bring all the ingredients (except for the vegetable and sesame oil) to a boil, then pour the brine over the vegetables and let soak and cool. Place the vegetables and brine in a clean, sealable jar and pop in the fridge. You’ll have pickles for at least a few months (if you don’t finish them before then!). You should wait at least 6 hours before serving, but I like to wait at least a few days before consuming just so the vegetables have time to absorb all the flavors. The longer the marination, the better.
The great thing about this recipe is you can substitute ingredients and quantities to your liking. If you prefer a more acidic taste, add more vinegar. If you want spicier, add more chili flakes or peppercorns. If you want a citrusy flavor, add some citrus peels or citrus-infused oil on top. There are so many ways to create a flavor palette for pickling and it’s a great way to familiarize yourself with herbs and spices and go outside your comfort zone!
Here is a list of ingredients that you could use for pickling in any combination, just to give you an idea of the variety:
for the vinegar:
apple cider vinegar, distilled vinegar, rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, and sherry vinegar.
for herbs, spices + other flavorings:
dill, mint, thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, chives, lemongrass, sage, marjoram, tarragon, wasabi, turmeric, curry, caraway seeds, sumac, mustard seeds, cardamon seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves, anise, clove, garlic, citrus peels, ginger, horseradish, peppercorns, chili flakes, hot sauce, soy sauce, honey, maple syrup, agave, and so much more!
sunflower oil, sesame oil, olive oil, lemon oil, chili oil, truffle oil (maybe?), grape seed oil, and avocado oil, just to name a few.
for things to pickle:
cucumbers (obviously), carrots, cabbage, radishes, turnips, tomatoes, eggplant, capers, onions, beets, fennel, eggs, pears, apples, peaches, pumpkin, squash, mushrooms, ramps, scallions..etc. I could probably write a novel on all the things you could pickle, but I’ll stop myself here and leave you with some articles on pickling I found inspiring:
Note: I made three pickling jars (radishes, carrots, and cucumbers). For each jar, I used about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of vegetables. For radishes I used 9 bulbs, cucumber I used 2 small ones, and for the carrots, 1 large one was enough.
Prepare the vegetable(s) you are pickling by peeling (if necessary) and slicing into any shape you like. For radishes and carrots, I used a mandolin and peeled the carrot before. For cucumbers, I cut them by hand. Place the vegetable in a heatproof bowl.
In a medium sauce pan, bring to a rolling boil the rice vinegar, water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, and chili flakes. Make sure the sugar and salt have dissolved. Pour the brine over the vegetable, making sure every piece is submerged and let soak for about 5-10 minutes or until cooled. Pour into a sealable glass jar, top with sesame oil and refrigerate. Let marinate for at least 6 hours or overnight before serving, but ideally allow a few days for the vegetable to absorb the brine.
*If you want to can the pickled vegetable, you can do so by placing the heatproof, sealable jar in a pot of water and bring to a boil. This canning process will allow you to keep the pickled vegetable longer (and keep unopened on the shelf rather than fridge). But, I usually eat the pickled goods within a short time, so canning is not usually necessary. If you are making a big batch you might want to try canning! It’s a great way to preserve seasonal produce. Enjoy!
Yields: 1 jar
Active time: 10 minutes
Total time (including marination): 6+ hours
1 - 1 1/2 cups vegetable/produce you want to pickle
1 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns (I used a combination of white, red, and black)
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (regular sesame oil is fine too)
1 mason jar for pickling. I used a 16 ounce sealable glass jar