Becoming a Pickle Pro

It's time to enter the world of easy refrigerator pickling. Scary canning terms and special equipment not required.

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Why bother pickling, you ask? Sure, preserving food is hardly a necessity for most people in our day and age—but do you really want to keep shelling out way too much money for those jars of artisanal pickles? And, more importantly, learning the simple formula for the quick, refrigerator variety is a surefire way to brighten your other recipes. All great chefs will tell you that an acidic element in cooking is crucial, which is why having zippy pickles on-hand can add a much-needed pop and crunch to so many of your go-to recipes.

Don't hold back on the herbs and spices! Photograph courtesy of Getty Images
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When you typically think of pickling or canning, anxiety might set in before excitement. The idea of sterilized cans being precariously plunged into boiling water with special tongs is enough to turn anyone off. But a quick pickle is only meant to last a month or two in the refrigerator (the other type of fermented pickle can last up to two years), and the process is as easy as mixing, pouring, and storing. 

Take your pick (le). They're all good. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

Here, chef Jessica Largey of the restaurant Simone, which is opening in downtown Los Angeles this fall, explains how we can all master the quick pickle.

What Can I Pickle? 

"I love quick-pickling all sorts of root vegetables, alliums, and even unripe fruit," says Largery. Getting creative with what you decide to pickle is half the fun—and the restrictions are minimal. First, consider the vegetable's crunch. You want something that will stay firm and crunchy throughout the process. A good pickle should enhance a dish with both texture and tang. 

Throw some pickles into your brine—or just pickle your garlic. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images
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"Every vegetable or fruit also has different fibers, which break down differently," she adds. "Certain vegetables, such as turnips, I blanch for 15 seconds and chill again before pickling to help the process along." Avoid mixing and matching different types of vegetables or fruit for this very reason—and try to keep everything in smaller, equal-sized pieces.

All those mustard seeds are the signs of a solid brine. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

What About the Brine?

"Everyone has their preferred ratio of vinegar, water, salt, and sugar," explains Largey. "And the same goes for herbs and spices. There are classics, but the possibilities are totally open-ended." Some of the typical pickling spices include mustard seeds, allspice, coriander seeds, and bay leaf—but don't stop there. Crushed red chili flakes, fresh garlic, slices of ginger, crushed turmeric, and fennel fronds can enrich your brine even further.

And now, Largey shares her recipe for pickled white baby turnips. Note: this includes her preferred basic brine, so she encourages using it to experiment with other vegetables, and to build on the flavors, too. 

The baby turnips before they get much, much better. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

1–2 bunches of white baby turnips

Pickling Liquid

3 cups Champagne vinegar1½ cups water

½ cup sugar3 tablespoons kosher salt1 bay leaf

1½ tablespoons yellow mustard seeds2 teaspoons fennel seed2 teaspoons coriander seed1 teaspoon black peppercorn PQ

  1. Cut cleaned baby turnips into equal-sized pieces and blanch in salted boiling water for 15 seconds.
  2. Submerge into an ice bath and drain.
  3. Combine all ingredients for pickling liquid in a pot and whisk to dissolve salt and sugar.
  4. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat.
  5. Pour hot liquid over turnips in bowl. Let cool at room temperature before refrigerating.

And that's how you quick pickle. Share away!

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