Pickles and I have a complicated relationship, mostly stemming from Russians’ need to pickle literally everything and a chronically car-sick four-year-old Beka eating far too many of my grandma’s pickled carrots. This was a memory lost to the archives of my brain until one fateful day when my parents decided to make pickles at home – Russian-style pickles, the smell of which filled the house for days, and was so intense it triggered a memory I hadn’t thought about in over a decade. From then on, I refused to touch anything pickled for the next decade – until my beloved chicken liver mousse became trendy, and restaurants started serving it with pickled red onions… which I promptly fell in love with. So I slowly started trying pickled things again: onions, ginger, peppers, okay mostly onions. Anyway, like a good Russian, I mostly love pickled things now (still not here for pickled eggs, mushrooms, or watermelon) and now I have my own absolutely-will-not-stink-up-your-entire-house-and-emotionally-scar-your-family-members pickled vegetable recipe.
I’m mostly talking about cucumbers here, but you can use this recipe for onions, peppers, and beets too. If you’re using red onions, swap the white wine vinegar for red wine vinegar! This recipe does use a little bit of sugar in the “cure,” but the actual sugar you consume is pretty negligible. If that’s really a deal breaker for you, consider my ultra basic Whole30 pickled onions instead.
To make your own perfect pickles with a bit of crunch, you’re gonna need:
- Tea kettle or other for boiling water
- Wide-mouth jar, at least one quart size, with lid
- Tbsp measurement
- 1/2 cup measurement
- Sharp knife
- Bowls for sliced veg
- Cutting board
- Any combination of cucumber (Persian or other), yellow or white onion, and/or golden beets
- 3-5 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp Diamond Crystal salt
- 1 tbsp turbinado sugar or similar
- 10-15 whole peppercorns (any color)
- apple cider vinegar
- white wine or champagne vinegar
- 1/2 cup nearly-boiled water
In your mason jar, combine the salt, sugar, and whole peppercorns. Cover with half a cup nearly-boiling water (I usually set my kettle to 200-205*F) and stir the solution or agitate the jar until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
Peel, smash, and coarsely chop your garlic cloves before adding them to the jar. While I generally approach garlic with reckless abandon, it’s just an added flavor component to the pickling solution and not doing a ton of work here (like it might in a soup or a curry), so there’s really no need to go harder than my 3-5 cloves recommendation.
For cucumbers: wash well, cut off ends, and peel at least two edges so it’s easier to slice – if you keep it fully intact, it will roll around and be more difficult/dangerous.
For golden beets: wash + scrub well. No need to peel, just give them a good scrub with a stiff brush and cut off the ends.
For onions: peel, cut off top and bottom, and cut in half lengthwise.
Using a sharp knife (or mandolin slicer, if you’re brave/reckless enough) thinly slice your veggies of choice and divide into separate bowls.
Once all of your vegetables are sliced, begin filling the jar in small handfuls of alternating layers e.g. a bit of cucumber, a bit of onion, a bit of cucumber, etc. Repeat until the jar is full or you have used all of your sliced veg.
Fill the jar up about 2/3 full with the apple cider vinegar then fill with white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar until the jar is full and/or your veg is fully covered in the vinegar solution. Tightly seal the lid, and – ideally over the sink, just in case – give the jar a good shake turning it sideways and upside down a few times to help distribute our salt-sugar-garlic solution at the bottom. After shaking, pop the lid open again, push down all the veg so it stays submerged, and if you find you suddenly have more space then top up the jar with more vinegar (your choice which one).
Seal, label, and refrigerate. Let marinate for at least a few hours, or overnight, before cracking in! For extra funk, let marinate at room temp for a few hours before refrigerating. Enjoy on everything you can possibly think of (including fried eggs) for three weeks.
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