Savory Summer … Sunday

Quickles

Stephen Morris

Quickles is my term for a summertime delight elsewhere called quick pickles or refrigerator pickles. I prefer quickles.

Simply stated these are uncooked vegetables pickled in a vinegar, water, and salt (sometimes sugar, too) solution and stored in the refrigerator. Quickles may not develop the deep flavor of fermented pickles, but they make up for that with freshness and versatility. Like summer, they don’t last long, but they create memories that can last forever.

Freshness is Bestest

Pickling is best done with super-fresh vegetables. Save the slightly bruised specimens for soups or other forms of preservation. Learn from my mistake! Do not think that pickling is a way to salvage a long-in-the-tooth crop. You just wind up with long-in-the-tooth quickles.

Coins versus Matchsticks?

Almost any vegetable can be pickled, and the shape you choose to pickle in is entirely up to you. Carrots, for instance, can be peeled and sliced into matchsticks or coins. Cherry tomatoes are best preserved whole. In general, quickles are not cooked, although some recipes call for blanching the more fibrous green vegetables, such as beans or asparagus, but I prefer the youngest and freshest.

Cucumbers, summer squash, and red onion lend themselves to matchstick-like spears. Carrots and cucumbers can go either way. It’s up to you.

It’s about the Brine

For quick pickles, the basic brine is equal parts vinegar and water, but adjust the ratio to your preference. Any basic vinegar is game — white, apple cider, white wine, and rice all work well. You can use these vinegars solo or in combination. Avoid aged or concentrated vinegars like balsamic or malt vinegar. Too much flavor for pickling. You want the veggies to be front and center.

Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar (white or brown) in a small saucepan over high heat. Use 1 pint each of vinegar and water, and two teaspoons of pickling salt (kosher or sea salt are fine) and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before pouring over the vegetables.

Unlock Your Inner Chef

Let vegetable anarchy reign! The key to unforgettable, flavorful quickles is in the spices. Here again, there are no rules, only general principles. Choose from garlic (whole cloves or smashed for stronger flavor), dill (fresh or seed), and red pepper flakes. One of the few ways you can completely spoil quickles is using too much of the latter.

Any vegetable becomes more exotic when the taste buds are further titillated by coriander, ginger, turmeric, and thyme. Raid the spice cabinet for black peppercorns, mustard seed, smoked paprika, coriander, or fennel seed. Go crazy! Release your inner gourmet chef. There are no quickle police.

Hint: keep simple records and record the success fo the final outcomes so that you can reproduce recipes reliably. Do I do this? Nah, but you should.

Place your clean, dry, and prepped vegetables into an equally clean and dry Mason jar. Pour the slightly cooled brine within 1/2 inch of the top. If you are short of brine, add additional water. If you have leftover brine, save it. It will come in handy for something.

Tighten jar tops, write date on lid, and put in the fridge. No need for pasteurization or sterilization. You’re done. Allow at least one week for flavors to marry, then have at ‘em. Sources vary on how long quickles are good for, but you can safely consume them for at least two months.

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