I propose that the term “quick pickles” be changed to “quickles”: all in favor?
Quick pickling (QUICKLES!) is a technique more than a recipe. You can swap out the parts and still get delicious pickled things. If you can boil water then YOU CAN MAKE PICKLES!
Quickles are basically a choose-your-own-adventure style of cooking, so the recipe is going to look intimidating. But really, that’s just because I want you to be equipped to say to yourself “Self, I’m gonna whip up some pickles,” no matter what veggies, spices, and vinegar you have sitting around.
The only caveat I’m going to give you is that you should probably use pale vinegar for radishes and red onions so you achieve that gorgeous pink hue; it comes naturally from the vegetables.
On to the cookery!
aka: Pink Pickled Onions or Radishes
Procs: About a cup of pickles plus brine
Time: About an hour, mostly soaking time, better if prepared a day in advance.
Difficulty: If you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a . . . . you can make quickles.
- Clean jar or plastic container
- Small non-reactive saucepan (no cast iron, no aluminum, no copper – unless you’re trying to acid-etch your cookware)
- Non-reactive heat proof bowl (stainless steel or ceramic are fine)
- 3/4 Cup water
- 1/2 Cup vinegar (white vinegar will work, but it will be pretty harshly tart. But you might be into that)
- Aromatics (these are just some suggestions, use things that smell nice and you think will play nice with your main dish. These will add more complexity to the pickles, but if you don’t have any they can be left out.)
- Spicy red peppers, sliced
- Juniper berries
- Peeled garlic cloves
- Bay leaves
- Fresh rosemary sprigs
- or y’know – Pickling spice mix
- 3 tbsp of sugar (or more if you want more sweet)
- 1.5 tsp of kosher salt (or more if you want more salty)
- Vegetables cut to evenly sized, roughly bite sized pieces – about a cup
- 1 bunch of radishes
- 1 red onion
- Green beans
- Slice your vegetables. Thicker cuts will be crunchier, but take longer to absorb the brine. Thinner will absorb the brine better. I like somewhere around 1/4 inch slices for onions and radishes. You can also try quartering or halving pearl onions or radishes. Some veggies like green beans won’t need to be cut up at all.
- Put the veggies inside the non-reactive bowl or glass jar.
- Put everything else in the saucepan and heat to a simmer. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve.
- Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the vegetables. There should be enough brine to cover the veggies. If there isn’t then quickly whip up another batch of brine (at least the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar) and pour that in.
Theorycraft: So why bring the liquid to a high temperature? Isn’t there enough to dissolve the salt and sugar without heating? (Yes.) Is it to draw the flavor out of the aromatics? (Also yes.) Won’t that cook the vegetables some? Why yes, yes it will, clever girl.
Using heat to break down some of the cell walls in the food means a more pickled end product, as opposed to just onions or radishes covered in vinegar. You could achieve this by parcooking (half-way cooking) the veggies, which you may still have to do with more robust vegetables like carrots. But basically we are saving a step and some time (because we’re making quickles) and some dishes by heating up the vinegar.
5. Let the quickles sit for at least 30 minutes to an hour on the counter. At this point they are ready to eat, but they will be better tomorrow. Let them cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge. They will keep for about three weeks in the fridge in your clean glass jar or plastic container.
- These are not fermented or pressure canned. Quickles are not shelf-stable. Leave them in your fridge.
6. Put them on everything . . . . except maybe cereal.
ProTip: I keep saying veggies here, but you can totally do this with fruit too. Try aromatics like cinnamon and black pepper with grapes and serve with goat cheese. Or apples with pie spices. You may have to play around with the soaking time and sugar balance, but there is no technical reason this wouldn’t work with this basic technique.
So what should we pickle next?
Dedicated to Sarah Windsor, who asked where the pink pickled radish recipe was.