There are so many amazing things to pickle, from the classic cucumber to other veggies, fruits, and even eggs! Although learning to pickle can seem daunting, all it really takes is a few ingredients, some glass containers, and a little time.
There are just 3 main pickling essentials: salt, vinegar, and water. Well, that and the food you want to pickle, of course. Anything besides that is just seasoning, and that can include anything from peppercorns and dill to sugar and ginger.
When it comes to pickles, there are two main types: sweet and savory.
Sweet pickling uses—you guessed it—sugar, and it's particularly perfect for pickling fruits, though it is also common when pickling vegetables. When sweet-pickling fruit, the leftover pickling liquid is also a perfect base for a delicious vinaigrette!
Sweet pickles include the classic "bread and butter pickle," those sweet, thinly sliced cucumber pickles often used in sandwiches and burgers.
Savory pickling, as you might expect, does not use sugar, though it often uses a number of savory seasonings such as peppercorns, mustard seeds, dill, and garlic.
It's totally up to you! Classic white vinegar is the typical go-to, but you may find that certain pickling recipes are well-suited to other vinegars. Sweet-pickled fruits, for example, often pair well with apple cider vinegar, while Asian-inspired pickles may benefit from the use of rice vinegar instead.
For those new to pickling, here are a couple tips from some seasoned veterans:
Start with easy quick refrigeration pickling. It takes the fear out of pickling. As long as you keep your ratios correct, safety shouldn't be an issue. Plus you'll have pickles ready to eat within a matter of days. — Erin, owner of Putting Up With Erin
But if you're looking for canned pickles that will have an extended shelf-life...
Find someone who’s done it before. Pickling is a big job to do solo, plus it requires some unique equipment so make it fun and find some friends with experience. You could even offer to bring all the fresh, farmer’s market produce and you get to learn first hand! — Greta, owner of Pickles Travel Blog
Even when tackling this more involved pickling method, pickling can actually be quite a relaxing way to spend some time:
Pickling is relaxing to me because it’s so methodical, plus it makes my kitchen smell amazing! — Greta of Pickles Travel Blog
Let's start with the classic dill pickle. This recipe makes TONS of pickles (about 12 quart jars) so those new to pickling may want to reduce the recipe. It uses garlic and dill, and the pickles can be enjoyed within about 12 hours, though they are best after at least 3 days.
Then there are the classic bread and butter pickles. This tasty recipe from our friend Debby at A Feast For The Eyes is delightfully tangy, with the perfect sweet-and-sour flavor for your sandwiches and burgers. It makes about 2 pints, so it's easy for newbies to try without having to scale down.
Let's usher in some pickled fruits now. These sweet pickled pears from Pickles Travel Blog are flavored with ginger, cinnamon, and clove and are perfect when eaten as a treat on their own, or caramelized on the grill. Greta notes that they are particularly excellent when paired with pork chops. This recipe makes about 4 quarts, and can be scaled down further for an easier project.
These hot pickled radishes from Putting Up With Erin make a satisfyingly crisp, peppery pickle with hints of cilantro, garlic, and cumin that goes great with Mexican food, amongst other things. This recipe yeilds 5 pints, but keeps for up to 1 year, so you'll have plenty of time to reap the fruits of your labor.
Can't decide on just one thing to pickle? You don't have to! This recipe from Pickled Plum uses red pepper, cauliflower, carrot, cabbage, jalapenos, and red onions for a vegetable medley that can be enjoyed all on its own, tossed in a salad, or as a kind of slaw alongside (or inside) sandwiches. These can be quick-pickled for just a few hours or left for 1 to 2 days for a stronger pickly flavor. It makes 8 servings, so it's not too huge a project for newcomers to the pickling world.
Back to fruits for a moment, these sweet pickled plums from Food In Jars are akin to a chutney, and great one their own or with beef, pork, lamb, and all sorts of other meat roasts, or pureed to make a dipping sauce for fried foods like egg rolls or samosas. Plus, when the fruit is all gone, the extra pickling liquid is great mixed as a flavoring for sparkling water or homemade vinaigrette. So go ahead and make all 4 pints of this recipe—you'll be glad you did.
Since our office is located in Austin, Texas, we'd be remiss if we didn't include a recipe for pickled jalapeños. These little slices are omnipresent in much Tex-Mex cuisine, and for good reason. Pickled jalapeños are often milder in spice while still packed with flavor, making them perfect for those who may be sensitive to spice (for even less spice, remove the seeds before pickling). This is another recipe from A Feast For The Eyes, and like all Debby's recipes, it's a keeper.
Jalapenos aren't the only peppers worth pickling. Pickled peppers are a pickling staple (as anyone familiar with Peter Piper will know), and this recipe uses rice vinegar and soy sauce for an Asian-inspired twist. These are sweet pickled peppers, using not just sugar, but also Sprite! Curious to see how? Just click the image and head on over to see the recipe.
Pickled okra, Greta's favorite! This recipe uses both sugar and dill for a mix of those two classic pickle types. These are perfect as a Bloody Mary garnish, dipped in tomato sauce, or even sliced and tossed in a stew! This recipe makes just 3 delicious pints, so it's accessible for pickling novices. Plus, pickled okra are hard to screw up; see Greta's note below.
Bet you didn't know you could pickle shrimp! Much like with a ceviche, the acid of the pickling brine "cooks" the shrimp so that it can be eaten without ever needing to touch a hot pan. Pickled shrimp is common in certain Southern cuisines and is delicious on its own or tossed with avocado, red onion, and even mango—anything you might find in a ceviche can be paired with these pickled prawns.
There are so many options to choose from, and the combinations are endless...so where to start? Here are a few favorites from our blogger friends:
She loves to season with "anything and everything spicy. Jalapeños or a spicier pepper than that are a must in the majority of my savory pickles (and sometimes even in sweeter mixes!)"
Her favorite thing to pickle is "either okra or cucumbers. Cucumbers because, let’s me honest, dill pickles are my absolute favorite food group. I like Okra because it’s harder to screw up and you can play around quite a bit with the flavor (ie add more and more spice!). Plus every time you bite into a pickled okra you get a bit of that delicious pickle juice that has been sitting inside the pickled okra."
She loves to season with "Hot peppers, then garlic, then of course dill! I like everything spicy, sweet spicy, savory spicy, weird spicy."
She loves to pickle beets, "Particularly savory rather than sweet pickled beets. Why? Because everyone makes the classic sweet pickled beet that often turns people off. Beets of all color variety suck up flavor well and keep their crisp texture even through the water bath canning process. Plus, I love the earthy taste that remains regardless of the spices and vinegar choice."
Something not going according to plan with your pickle adventure? Check out What Went Wrong With My Pickles from our friend Greta. You'll be glad you did.
So, what's first on your pickling must-try list? Or maybe you've got a pickling recipe/tip of your own to share? Let us know in the comments! Happy pickling!