Pickling isn't rocket science. In fact, anyone can make their own speciality pickles using just about any fruit or vegetable. For example, I've pickled everything from lemons, watermelon rinds, and apples to red onions, carrots, radishes, and cucumbers.
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There are thousands of recipes for pickling brines on the web, and while I am sure they are all wonderful and tasty, I like to keep things simple with an easy-to-remember brining ratio. This foolproof ratio can be easily adjusted to suit the amount of fruits or vegetables you're pickling, and can be customized by using different types of vinegars or by adding your own combination of pickling spices to create a unique flavor.
If you've got a jar with a lid and some produce lying around, then you're only a few easy steps away from making delicious pickles.
The foundation of every pickling recipe is the brine used to pickle the ingredients. Pickling brines consist of four basic ingredients: vinegar for acidity, water to cut the harshness of the acid, sugar to balance the acid, and salt for flavor.
No matter what I am pickling, I always use the same basic brine ratio:
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp. salt
As long as you can remember equal parts vinegar to water, and ½ cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon salt for every 2 cups of total liquid, you will be able to easily adjust this formula for the amount of pickling brine you need to fill your pickling jars.
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To make the pickling brine, all you need to do is bring all four of the ingredients, plus any spices you choose, to a boil. (More on the combination of spices below.)
Then, just pour the brine into a jar over the top of any precut fruit or vegetable. Once the brine cools to room temperature, cover and store the jar in the fridge.
The pickles can be enjoyed after only 24 hours of refrigeration. However, the longer you let your pickles sit in the brine, the more flavorful they will become.
Pickles can be flavored with a wide variety of spices, seeds, and herbs. You can flavor your pickling brine with store-bought pickling spice or you can make your own. There is no definitive recipe for pickling spices and flavors. Feel free to experiment with flavors including garlic, lemongrass, and even different kinds of salt. The flavor combinations are endless.
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Now that you have your simple brine ratio and a few flavor ideas, it's time to decide what you should pickle with it. Good Housekeeping has an inspiring list of 20 Surprising Things You Can Pickle. This useful list includes both fruits and vegetables, along with tips on how to pair them with a main dish. For example, they recommend pickling figs or corn to accompany a grilled meat entrée.
Pickling is an awesome way to add a punch of flavorful acidity to in-season fruits and vegetables so you can enjoy them long after the harvest season has passed; they also serve as an excellent snack or garnish. (And don't forget to save your leftover pickle juice, as it still packs a lot of flavor for other recipes.)
With a jar, produce, and just four simple ingredients, you can become a pro pickler and make dozens of unique flavors of pickled fruits and veggies—either for your own kitchen or as a delightful gift.