Introduction: Death by Pickles
Here is a quick and simple recipe for pickling all the things, should the great almighty god of pickles let down his briny hand and charge you with the ineffable task of baptizing, embalming, or otherwise preserving the greater vegetarian content of your refrigerator. Included in these directions is my own secret recipe for brine (that's pickle juice to you laypicklers), but you can feel free to tweak it a bit so long as you keep the vinegar and water levels commensurate (1 cup to 1 cup). Also, feel free to vary the amount of apple cider vinegar to taste, and experiment with other vinegars so long as they have an acidity of 5% (if they have something else, you'll have to do the math to ensure the acidity is just so). As previously mentioned, you can use this recipe for pickling just about anything including but not limited to: cucumbers, carrots, eggs, beets, that one vegetable you have in the back of the fridge of a mysterious and unknown origin, garlic, your neighbor's excessively communicative poodle, old bills you don't want to pay, your husband's copy of Maxim Magazine, pearl onions, last summer's bikini, cabbage, every pair of your spouse's underpants that aren't thong-like, that KILLERS album you've had lying around forever, dental floss, hot peppers, spam, the list goes on and on! Have fun and happy picklins!
Step 1: Buy Stuff
This project begins as does every project: with you spending your hard earned cash on silly stuff you and your friends will probably tear through in about ten minutes.
Here is the stuff that you will have to buy this time. The good news is, you can probably re-use everything (except for the vegetables) a few times to make more and more pickles! (Such a bounty of pickles you will have!)
-Mason Jars with Lids (You can get these at most hardware stores and of course from the internet. I recommend the 1.5 pint jars or larger. Remember, you get bonus hipster points for using vintage mason jars, or just saying they're vintage because they were free on Craigslist).
*Stuff for Making Brine *
(Note: the recipe below is enough brine to fill *two* mason jars. Multiply as needed.)
-1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar with 5% acidity (Get the hippy looking kind that says "raw" or "with the mother" or has the Moral ABCs written on it)
-1 Cup Distilled White Vinegar with 5% acidity
-2 Cups Water
-3 teaspoons salt
*You can mess around with the ingredients below & substitute spices to taste*
-3 teaspoons black pepper
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-2 teaspoons powdered mustard
-2 teaspoons cumin
-1 teaspoon oregano
-1 teaspoon thyme
-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-1 teaspoon paprika
-1 teaspoon tumeric
-1 teaspoon sugar (add more if you want sweeter pickles)
*The Great List of Things You Can Pickle*
Please add your own suggestions below.
-Cucumbers (get different kinds for a different crunch)
-Carrots or baby carrots
-Roasted Beets (you have to roast them before pickling. Short version: cut the tops off, cover them in olive oil, put them in foil and stick them in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender)
-Cooked Asparagus Spears
-Green and Red Tomato
-Fresh herbs (these will help add flavor to the brine)
Technically you can pickle just about anything, but these are a few guaranteed to work options that don't require a lot of tweaking to the brine given in this recipe. Feel free to add your own wacky suggestions or passionately debate the legitimacy of items on this list in the space below.
Step 2: Prepare the Veg!
Prepare your veggies for their new temporary home in the mason jars. For some this will mean simply washing and slicing, for others this will mean cooking, boiling, or otherwise torturing them into an edible state. The basic rule is you want your veggies to be fit for eating. So whatever is ready to be popped in your mouth can probably go into the mason jar and will come out * vastly improved*
I recommend preparing some slices of chili (jalapeno or serrano) and peeling some cloves of garlic to toss in to the jars if you want spicy pickles.
While there's not much to say for this step, it is undoubtedly the longest part of the process with the greatest potential for making you rue the day you decided to make pickles. Still, think of the work those poor pickles have to do, drowned in their fermented bath, transforming, changing until not even their fellow vegetables recognize them, only to meet a bitter end decapitated by the blades of your shiny white teeth! Now that's trauma!
Photo is not mine because knitting scares me. It is from the portion of the internet located here: http://www.thedailygreen.com/cm/thedailygreen/images/ko/knit-pickles-nicole-lg.jpg
Step 3: Make the Brine
As the Picklepedia will tell you, the word brine in dutch is "pekel," the word responsible for the English word "pickle." Brine is made from combining water, vinegar, heat, which coupled with confinement and fermentation produces the very tasty chemical process known colloquially as pickling. You can adjust anything in this recipe so long as you do not alter the balance of water to vinegar (one cup to one cup). You should try tasting the brine as you add things to help it along its way. I also recommend chanting things like "double double boil and trouble" to disturb your housemates. Remember, the items you add to the jar itself (garlic, peppers, peppercorn, chili flakes, fresh herbs) will also adjust the flavor during the pickling process so leave room for bonus flavor.
*Making The Brine*
Heat 2 cups water, 1 cup distilled white vinegar, and 1 cup apple cider vinegar together in a pot. Add 3 teaspoons salt, as well as spices and herbs to taste. Cook until the salt has dissolved or until you get impatient.
Here is a photo of some nice old ladies making brine back in the humble 1950s.
Step 4: Put Everything Into Jars
After ensuring that your mason jars are properly cleaned and sterilized, fill each with the sliced veggies leaving a 1/4" from the top of the jar free for dance magic. You can mix and match different veggies to produce different assortments, but do keep in mind that some veggies take longer to pickle and some have a shorter fridge life. There is a lot of debate over how long you can leave such and such fruit, vegetable, animal pickled and where before eating it. My recommendation is that for fresh, hearty vegetables like green beans and carrots, leave them a few weeks at least. For cooked foods like beets and eggs, eat within a week or two. You'll know your batch has spoiled if it gets a nasty film over it. In which case, head for the hills before it mutates, develops a thirst for human flesh and destroys your once-quiet, pickle-free town.
Once you've arranged your vegetables in their respective jars, I recommend adding some additional fresh herbs and spices to help season them uniquely. You can add: sprigs of tarragon, bay leaves, sliced pepper, pepper corn, cloves of garlic, and slices of onion to change the flavor.
Now it's time to add the brine. Pour the brine into the jars making sure there is enough brine in each jar to cover the veggies. If the brine hasn't cooled, give it an hour or so before putting the lids on (again, there is some crazy debate over how cold / warm your brine should be. If you're just putting them in the fridge, this should not matter much. However, if you're the type of dude or lady who craves crazy debates over ideal food preparation, feel free to chime in below). Make sure you put the lids on tight! Then add some crazy labels so you know what's in what (or if you'd rather leave it a mystery, just label each one: "?"). Feel free to use the power of suggestion when labeling your pickles. "The Most Delicious Pickles To Have Ever Been Pickled" and "OMG These Are Freaking Amazing Pickles!" are both good pickle labels. Additional suggestions below:
Step 5: Bath Time!
If you want to make proper pressurized pickles (which will hypothetically last a lot longer than refrigerator pickles and be "shelf safe") you need to purchase a pressure canner. You can get them for about $60. You can also use a huge pot. Add your jars to the pot in a single row with the lids screwed on loosely. If you have enough room to stack them, put an aluminum or other metal plate between the rows. Fill the pot or pressure canner with water to cover the lids with 2" water overhead. Boil for 10 minutes, then remove using jar tongs (important so you can keep your hands!) You'll hear the air escape the lids and every now and then a delightful "popping" sound as the jars seal. If the jars don't indent, you need to repeat the process until they seal. Reasons your jars might not seal: you didn't leave enough space between the top of the brine and the lid (remember to leave 1/4" free), you screwed the lid on too tightly, there are air holes between your pickles and the jar (use a plastic knife around the rim to get them out of there), the great god of pickling hates you.
Step 6: Squirrel Away All the Pickles
Take lots of photos of how awesome your pickles look, like tiny ecosystems or exotic specimens suspended in their glass houses. The photos are very important, for this is how you will remember them when they are gone. Photo suggestions:
-Make a pyramid of the jars and call it the pickle pyramid. Stand behind the pickle pyramid like the great god of pickles giving the thumbs up to the pickle planet below. Caption: "No one is really sure who constructed the pyramids, but I'm pretty sure it was THIS guy."
-Arrange your pickles on the porch swing. Add bows and tiny shoes to taste. Caption: "Quintuplets" (edit caption to accurately reflect the number of pickle jars portrayed.)
-Place all your pickle jars inside the confines of your pajamas, arranged as if it were your body lying in them. Tuck the pickle jars in the pajamas into bed. Wait for your man or lady friend to come home and watch as hilarity ensues! Caption: "And that was when I realized it was time for a divorce."
Pro Tip: Fermentation photography is an up-and-coming field in the art world. Feel free to experiment and who knows, someday you could be the next Jackson Pollock!
Once you have documented them in their unspoilt juvenile state, squirrel your pickles away, hiding them from friends and loved ones who would attempt to devour them before their prime. Sleep soundly knowing you have a stock pile of highly acidic vegetables just waiting for you should your mouth require a rustic vacation into the sensational outback known as Pickle Land. Try to resist the temptation to eat all the pickles within a week. No good will come from it. Remember, the torture of waiting adds to their overall flavor. The reason pickles are so salty is because they are seasoned by the tears of joy and relief that come from waiting weeks and weeks for a minute or two of intense satisfaction: a model which can and should be applied to how we treat ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us.
May the fermentation be with you.