I love pickling.
Notice I said pickling and not canning. It’s not that I have anything against canning—I’ve done it quite happily—but sometimes it’s too finicky for me. Too much can go wrong, too many standards and requirements, too much technicality. One wrong move, one little adjustment to the recipe, a few degrees off in the water and the whole thing goes bad. So it’s this impatience and my gravitation to not following the rules of anything that make me lean a bit more towards quick pickles. I don’t even mind that their shelf life is considerably less—they don’t last long for me anyway.
Things like quick-pickled red onions are more my speed. I love tossing red onion, sliced paper-thin, in lime juice, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and red chilies (with a few splashes of water to dilute) for topping tacos or tostadas. With red wine vinegar for the acid and holding the chilies they’re fabulous on a salad of escarole with a robust extra virgin olive oil. Or turnips, the ones with a few wedges of beetroot to dye them hot pink. Pickled grapes, jalapeños, shredded carrots, ramps… the list goes on. Oh, and cucumbers.
They’re meant to be refrigerated, and only for a short time, so you don’t have to worry about shelf stability and can play with the levels of salt, sugar, vinegar, and water—something that would threaten any traditionally processed pickles. Not only that, but some are ready to eat in mere hours, and there’s something to be said about that, that most instant of gratifications. A few years back I decided to grow pickling cucumbers. I let them stay on the vine for a while because they weren’t getting quite green enough to me. Needless to say they ended up quite large. Even still, I was picking cucumbers faster than I knew what to do with them. I decided to try out some pickle recipes. I went through the whole process, following all the steps to the letter, canning them properly and everything. I was so proud of them. I couldn’t wait to give them a try after they spent some time pickling. And when the day came and I took a bite it was immediately obvious—this recipe is not for me. Such a disappointment. Not so much the fact that they didn’t taste good, but because I had invested so much in them. So much hope, so many glances at them in my pantry as I waited on their evolution. So much vinegar.
I love my fridge pickles (the cucumber ones, I mean) to be heavy with dill, a good amount of garlic, and an underlying, lingering, fiery heat from chilies. Ideally, the chili would be a fresh red one, plucked from the garden and split down the middle. Unfortunately for me my chilies are incredibly behind this year. Chili flakes do just as well.
These are perfect for last minute summer cookouts and so versatile that they can fit almost any flavor. Not only is the effort minimal but the reward is absolutely max—you not only get the smug satisfaction of making pickles (without all the finicky canning, I might add) but you also get a damn good pickle, too.
For more pickles and things follow me on BLOGLOVIN’. Just do the damn thing.