Pickle me

9 July, 2020

How to make your own pickles

Making your own pickles sounds super domestic goddessy, doesn’t it? Like maybe it’s complicated and technical, with a high risk of stuffing things up? Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. Making your own pickles can actually be way easier than you might imagine. And even more complicated methods like lactic fermentation aren’t so much hard as time consuming. Let’s grab some fresh, seasonal veggies, some jars and get pickling!

Easiest: Quick pickles

The simplest pickling method to get you started is with quick pickles, also known as refrigerator pickles. For this method, you choose your veggies (great choices to get you started include cucumbers, carrots and cauliflower), cut them into suitably sized pieces, and cover them in a sterilised jar with a simple vinegar brine. Leave them to pickle for anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days, depending on what vegetable you’re using, then pop them in the fridge to enjoy in sandwiches, salads, as a side to your bibimbap or just with a glass of cold beer.

Ready to make up some jars? Start with this guide to get your quantities right, then get happy experimenting!

A fair bit harder: Canned pickles

Like quick pickles, canned pickles use a vinegar brine too. But to allow for a longer shelf life, they are also processed in a hot water bath. And unlike quick pickles that you can eat as soon as the same day, you usually need to wait a few weeks before eating your canned pickles.

Canned pickles do require a bit more equipment and are probably the hardest of the methods. If it’s something you want to get into, we recommend referring to an expert source of information, such as Food In Jars.

Not so much hard as time consuming: Fermented pickles

Unlike the other two methods that use a vinegar brine to prevent your pickles from going bad, fermented pickles rely on good bacteria and yeasts converting the sugars in the food into lactic acid. This lactic acid inhibits the growth of bad bacteria. And as a bonus flavour sensation, it imparts a sour tang to your pickle too.

Two of the best known fermented pickles are sauerkraut and kimchi. Both of these are based on cabbage, but there’s so many other vegetables you can experiment with too, either alone or in combination.

Fermented pickles usually involves chopping your veggies, mixing with salt and other flavourings as appropriate, and leaving it in jars to ferment at room temperature for a few days to a few weeks. It requires a bit of judgement on your part, depending on the room temperature (fermentation will happen faster when the weather is warmer) and also how tangy you want your pickles to be. The longer you ferment, the stronger the flavour and also the more your vegetables will soften. Once it’s reached your desired level, you can hinder further fermentation by keeping your pickles in the fridge.

Looking for a recipe to get you started? Try this quick kimchi recipe, which is also vegan (traditional kimchi can use fish sauce as one of the salting agents).

Whatever method you use, don’t forget these basics!

There’s pros and cons to all these pickling methods, but whatever you choose, always remember these key tips:

  • Start with good quality vegetables – this is not the time to clear out the sad and soggy bits and pieces left in your fridge’s crisper drawer
  • Cleanliness is critical – make sure to thoroughly clean and sterilise your jars
  • Trust your senses – with no use by date, if you think a pickle has gone bad or mouldy, play it safe and throw it away