Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pickled Delight Sampler

Warm greetings to new subscriber (and Facebook friend) Barbara!

What better way to celebrate one year of Kissing the Cook than with what may be the ultimate in reduced fat foods: pickles! More specifically, with a selection of easy-to-make pickled items, made with a variety of brines, that I call “Pickled Delight Sampler.” 

If the word “pickled” conjures images of large canning set-ups, I have good news. While three different brines are used in preparing the sampler, everything in this recipe is prepared using the simple method that has come to be known as refrigerator pickling. Refrigerator pickling doesn’t involve the canning process that, while not difficult, is still off-putting to some people. Refrigerator pickling is really just your normal food preparation: make the food, put it in a container, and store it in the refrigerator for consumption within a reasonable amount of time. (Long-term storage, particularly if non-refrigerated, does, of course, require proper canning equipment and methods.) With refrigerator pickling, the flavor of the vegetables is the direct result of the brine and seasonings used, rather than coming from the controlled fermentation process of other methods.

Pickled vegetables, once you get involved with them, are a world unto themselves. According to our friends at Wikipedia, festivals in Japan often feature a snack called ippon-tsuke, which translates, roughly, to “stick pickle.” (For some reason I’m reminded now of “poke-mon,” the Japanese word familiar to most parents that translates to “pocket monster,” and which begs the question, “Why does the Japanese language have a word for ‘pocket monster’?”) Even pickle-loving  Japanese have nothing up on our American south, which has put its own unique stamp on the world of pickling. Southern offerings include “Kool-Aid pickles," which are dill pickles made in a mixture of Kood-Aid and pickle brine, and the self-explanatory “Deep Fried Pickles.”

While pickling can be done with many different vegetables, cucumbers are used most often, so a few words about them are in order. Pickling is generally done using the small, crisp Kirby cucumber, rather than the more usual cucumbers used in salads, etc. Be sure to pick Kirby’s that have a firm texture and a deep green color. Otherwise your pickles could end up mushy and seedy. And no one likes mushy, seedy pickles. You can pickle your Kirby’s whole, cut into halves or quarters, or even slices. They’re your pickles; you make the call.

The sampler pictured includes a couple of items my grandmother used to delight us with as children: pickled celery, and pickled lettuce. For the plate pictured, these and the roasted red peppers were prepared in a garlic pickle brine. The mushrooms were prepared in the same brine but with some lemon zest added. And the pickles themselves were done in a “half-sour” dill pickle brine. Needless to say, you can pickle these or any other vegetables in any of the brines. (Some vegetables, like green beans, should be blanched before the brine is applied.)

The details of each brine are presented below. Once the brine is made, the refrigerator pickling approach is as follows:

Prepare the brine by putting the water, vinegar and salt in a pot and bringing to a boil. (Use kosher salt. The iodine in table salt has an adverse affect on the color of the finished pickle.) Once it has started boiling, turn off the heat and let the brine cool before pouring it onto the vegetables. We want to pickle the vegetables, not cook them.

Place the seasonings in the bottom of your jar(s), and then the vegetables on top of that. (I’ve seen recipes in which the seasonings are cooked directly into the liquid rather than being placed in the individual jars. I think that would work well if you’re using one big jar, but if you’re dividing your vegetables into two or more small jars, placing the seasonings in the jars individually ensures they’ll be distributed evenly between the jars. If you put all the seasonings into the brine at once, each jar will get whatever distribution comes out when you pour.)

Pour the brine of your choice onto the vegetables. (It’s important to make sure the brine covers the vegetables completely. If necessary, place a water-filled sandwich bag or other weight on top of the vegetables to keep them submerged.)

Seal the jars, and place them in the refrigerator. Give them a gentle shake once or twice a day. Now comes the hard part: waiting. Half-sours generally should take about two days to be ready. Give the garlic pickled items a week to a week and a half.

Now let’s bring on the brines! Using the general method above, prepare the brines using the combinations of ingredients below. (All of the brine recipes below are based on two pounds of Kirby cucumbers, which is usually around 12.) First, the half-sour dill brine (used for the cucumbers in the plate pictured):

Basic Brine:
  • 2-1/2  cups water
  • 2-1/2 cups white vinegar
  • ¼ cup Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed (paper on is ok)
  • ½ tsp dried red pepper flakes.
Next, our garlic pickling brine (used for the lettuce, celery and roasted red pepper in the plate pictured):
Basic Brine
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 cloves of chopped garlic per pint jar
  • 10 peppercorns per pint jar
Finally, the lemon-garlic brine (used for the mushrooms in the plate pictured):
Basic brine: same as garlic pickling brine

Seasonings: same as garlic pickling brine, with the addition of 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest per pint jar.
And there you have it: an introduction to the wide, wonderful world of refrigerator pickling! If you’d like a cookbook-style copy of this recipe, drop me a line and I’ll get it right out.

See you next week as we begin our second year of reduced-fat recipes! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. Thanks for the recipes and tips! So easy to follow!! Hi Barbara!! XOXOX

  2. Thanks, Kim! I used to do a lot of pickling, and then got away from it. It just seemed like a good time to get started again.

  3. Hello! I'm visiting my NJ buddy! Man, how I miss the good pickles that I'd get from the barrel in the Bklyn mom & pop shops when I was little! Your post brought back good memories! I wish I weren't so lazy, I'd try some of your pickling recipes. Well, maybe one day. :)

  4. If you pickle it, I will eat it! I just picked up a jar of delicious bread and butter pickles at the farmers' market. I also picked up four pounds of Kirby cucumbers to make refrigerator dills.

    Have a delicious weekend!


  5. oh no! why are you doing this to me? I have just got into making my own jams and after this post I may have to start with a new addition... thank you for the warm welcome btw (I am Barbara and that is the link to my - brand new - blog). hälsningar

  6. Thank you, Gloria, Bonnie and Barbara!

    I hope you'll think about trying the pickling, Gloria. One of the great things about it, especially doing refrigerator pickling, is how easy it is; just combine a few simple ingredients, put everything in a jar, get it to the refrigerator, come back in a couple of days, and there they are, ready to eat!

    Aren't farmer's markets great, Bonnie? Part of what led me to getting back to pickling is a farmer's market around here where one of the booths has the most amazing pickled items. In particular, he's got these mushrooms that are totally delicious and that I've been trying (so far unsuccessfully) to duplicate.

    Oh, and Barbara...what a great blog you've created! Great luck with it!

  7. Looks great. I've enjoyed my recent forays in this area too. And I love your wit! I have the same thoughts about words like pokemon existing!


  8. Thank you, Sandra! Refrigerator pickling is so good and so stunningly easy I am surprised its use is not more widespread. Your work is so creative, I would love to know what kinds of things you pickle. (For me, the lettuce and celery are special favorites because they connect to me so many cherished family meals with my grandmother. The mushrooms too, just because I like them. lol)