I am such a vinegar fiend. I’m always accused of being too heavy-handed with the red wine vinegar in our salad dressings. Pickling has been on our to-do list for a little while now. There’s nothing quite like crunching into a perfectly crisp gherkin that’s soaked up plenty of punchy vinegar, spices and salt.
Pickling vegetables isn’t as tricky and time-consuming as you might think. This basic pickling recipe is simple to follow and requires no special equipment. You don’t even need to worry about precise quantities and temperatures.
Make sure you have some small sterilised jars ready to go. One way to do this is to put jars and lids in a hot dishwasher cycle. First, wash your jars and lids in hot, soapy water, then rinse and dry. Fill your dishwasher with the clean jars and run a rinse wash to time the ending with when your pickle solution will be ready. If you’re using rubber seals, remove the seals and cover in just-boiled water. Whichever method you use to sterilise your jars, make sure they’re still warm and completely dry before filling.
You can use any vegetables you’d like just make sure that they are young, quite firm and as fresh as possible. We’ve added a mix of vegetables along with baby cucumbers including cauliflower, carrots, shallots and peppers.
Pickles are really only as good as the vinegar you use. A good quality vinegar will have a 4 to 6 percent acetic acid level. This recipe uses white wine vinegar which is milder in flavour to other vinegars and gives a better appearance to light coloured pickles.
Prepare your vegetables
Wash all your vegetables well. For the baby cucumbers, slice diagonal slices about 2cm in diameter. Put the cut cucumbers into a bowl and toss them with 1 teaspoon of salt. Let them stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour and then drain them well. Combine the cucumbers in a large bowl with cauliflower florets, carrots sliced into 2cm rounds, small onions or shallots left whole and long sweet peppers seeded and cut into rings.
Divide vegetables and add flavourings
In each jar (approx. 600ml in size), put 1 bay leaf, 2 garlic cloves and ¼ teaspoon of black peppercorns. You can experiment with the mixture of spices you use (using whole not ground spices) with things like star anise, dill seeds, ginger or mace. Pack the vegetables into each jar, add a fresh oregano sprig and shake the jars a little to settle the vegetables. Make sure to not pack them too tightly to avoid bruising.
Make the pickle solution
In a saucepan, bring to a boil 2 ¾ cups of white wine vinegar, 2 ½ cups of water and 4 teaspoons of pickling salt – stirring to dissolve the salt. Pickling salt is just fine, pure granulated salt with no additives. You can adjust these amounts up or down depending on your quantity of vegetables but ensure you keep the ratio of vinegar, water and salt unchanged.
Fill your jars
Pour the hot liquid over the vegetables to cover them, leaving just a bit more than 2 cm in headspace. Top each jar with 1 tablespoon of a good quality olive oil and seal tightly. Process the jar in a boiling-water bath for 20 minutes. We use a big stock pot that is lined with a tea towel for the jars to sit on. A jar lifter would be nifty but if you don’t have one, carefully remove the jars one at a time with silicon gloves on, trying to keep them upright without tilting. Set the jars apart on a board or a cake rack to cool completely.
Store the jars in a cool, dry and dark place (such as a pantry or cupboard) for at least 3 weeks before eating. This is actually the hardest bit of this recipe! After opening a jar, store in the fridge for up to 1 month.
If you’re a pickled vegetable fan – you’ll love making your own pickles. Look out for fruit and vegetables that are in season and have fun experimenting. I’m thinking it might be time for more pickling!