Summer in Austin, where the trick to survival is avoiding the swelter, immersing yourself in cold/cool/tepid water, and eating pickles. Yes, eating pickles. They’ll cool you down, make you sweat, or give you that extra push over the cliff of thirst that inspires you to get that third or fourth pint. We like that.
Pickling is one of those culinary traditions that seems shrouded in mystery—like curing meat, making a good bread starter, or vienna sausage. We love pickling here at the co-op, and the summer season is probably our favorite for its overwhelming pickleable bounty. There is no wrong way to pickle something, and each method has its merits. For those with some time on their hands, brine pickles are a great choice; for those with less time, vinegar (or quick pickles) based pickles are best; for those with no time, but starry-eyed pickle wants and needs, quick pickles work nicely; and for those who love the funk—whey (or lacto fermented), or kimchi style pickles satiate the desires for a tongue tingling deliciousness.
We use most of these methods in the kitchen, each garnering different flavor profiles, crunch, or effervescence. We love making kimchi. We love fermentation. We love clean, cool vegetable flavors. We love you. Here are some recipes (for best results use the freshest, highest quality produce available):
To make vinegar pickles, you simply need to make the vinegar brine, bring it to a boil for a minute or two, and pour it over the prepared vegetables. Let this sit out until it cools at room temperature, then refrigerate and enjoy. Distilled vinegar, apple cider, rice wine, and white wine vinegars work best. Here are two vinegar brine ratios we love.
Clean Brine - really showcases the taste of the produce, great for carrots, peppers, root vegetables, and some cucumbers.
Ratio 2:1:1 Vinegar:Water:Sugar – so, 1 cup of vinegar to every 1/2 cup of water and sugar. Or, you could think of it as simple syrup with twice the vinegar. You can add any herbs and spices you like to this, but remember, the better your veg, the more you want to show that off. You’ll need about one quart of brine per 8oz of vegetable. Keeps indefinitely.
3 dill fronds (per quart)
So, for this you want 1 qt water per 1 qt of vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup salt, 3 dill fronds per 8oz of vegetable, scale up. Keeps indefinitely.
This is for the more adventurous, or at least those who aren’t afraid of mold and funky stuff. These fermented pickles stay crisp, and have natural off flavors that are really nice, tart, and wild. You need to check on these, and skim any moldy bits that may start to show up. This is ok. Don’t be afraid, and if you are, feed them to your least favorite family member/co-worker first to make sure they don’t have botchalism.
50 grams of salt per 1 liter of water per 8oz of vegetable. Additions of garlic, hot peppers, and herbs are welcome.
Wash the vegetables if not fresh, if fresh, you’ll want the natural yeasts and bacteria on the produce to kick off the yeast/bacteria orgy that will give you great pickle action.
Cover the produce with the brine in a sterilized container. You can put more brine in a ziplock to weigh down the vegetables in the brine (sterilized plates work too). Place the vessel in a cool place (a little warmer than 75º for the good bacteria to win the epic fight that will ensue in the vessel). Check every few days, skim off anything you don’t want to eat. After seven days, strain the pickles and boil the brine, cool and cover before storing. This will kill anything that may kill you. Keeps indefinitely.
These are great for condiments with your meal when you want a homemade pickle on the quick. Use this on radishes, greens, cukes, squash, etc. Slice thin on a mandolin for best results.
3:1 sugar:salt – 1 TBSP:1tsp per lb of vegetable
Toss the vegetable in the mixture of salt and sugar, let sit for twenty minutes, taste (adjust salt and sugar to your preferences (I like about 4:1 sugar salt)), drain, enjoy. These will keep about three days in the fridge.
Now you have some knowledge to work with, what you do with it is yours to explore. There is no wrong way to pickle, just play with it until you find what you like, and rock out. Watch Portlandia and enjoy the presence of preserved foods and ancient culinary traditions in your home.