Pickling Away Food Waste

March 22, 2024

As the growing season approaches, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for how you’re going to use and store your produce. Even if you aren’t growing a garden yourself, shelves in grocery stores and food pantries become stocked with an abundance of fresh produce during the spring and summer. Before you know it, your fridge and pantry could be overflowing with an assortment of beautiful, fresh produce you need to find a use for. Quick pickling is a simple and effective way of preserving produce for later use, and you likely already have everything you need in your home kitchen! 

The history of pickling dates back to 2030 BC, when cucumbers from India were first pickled in the Tigris Valley of present day Iraq. Pickling became one of the best and most reliable ways of preserving food, especially while traveling for long distances. Pickles became the lifeblood of sailors, merchants, and travelers, as well as a reliable way of sustaining families through the winter (PBS). Today, pickles are made with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and quick pickling at home is one of the easiest ways to preserve produce for later use. As a bonus, pickles are delicious! 

Pickles are vegetables soaked and stored in a brine (salt and vinegar mixture). Traditional pickling techniques require you to use hot water bath canning to seal the pickles for storage; but, when making quick pickles, you can simply store the container in the fridge. Think of quick pickles like an opened jar of pickles from the store; they should safely last in your fridge for at least a month, maybe even longer! 

The process itself is very simple and takes less than half an hour from start to finish. Simply combine a 1:1 ratio of water to vinegar into a pot to form the base of your brine. Heat on low heat, add a generous amount of salt, and stir until salt completely dissolves. You don’t want to overheat or boil your brine as that will cause your pickles to be slightly cooked, losing some of their crispiness. Pour the brine over the sliced vegetables in a sealable container. You can easily adjust the flavor of your pickles by adding whatever spices you’d like. Fresh and dried herbs (thyme, dill, rosemary, oregano), whole and ground spices (mustard seed, coriander, peppercorns, red pepper flakes), and garlic make great additions to quick pickles! 

Some quick pickle recipes may use a different ratio of water to vinegar (or leave out the water completely), some don’t require you to heat the brine at all, and others instruct you to mix the salt, vinegar, and vegetables together all at once. You can pickle in any kind of vinegar, although, we recommend sticking to the lighter vinegars like white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and rice vinegar, and avoid the darker ones like balsamic. Regardless of the pickle recipe you choose to follow, the most important step is to make sure your pickles are fully submerged in the brine before storing them. Other than that, feel free to get creative and find the process that works best for you! 

Looking for ideas to get started? Try our Quick Pickles Onions or Quick Pickled Radishes

Author: Emily Menshew, Nutrition Education Associate