Quick Pickles and Right-This-Minute Pickles
Pickles are a great way to use up random veggies that are a bit past their prime - lightly wilted or slightly limp, but still not ready for the compost pile. You can turn them into tasty pickles very easily, with no water baths or canning equipment required.
If you have a bunch of produce to use up - stems and stalks and allium are all great options, as are root veggies like carrots and parsnips - you'll want to make a basic pickle brine with what I'm calling Quick Pickles. If you want to punch up whatever you're making in a short amount of time - anything from Fried Rice to Quesadillas - can benefit from crunchy veggies with an acidic hit - then I recommend Right-This-Minute Pickles.
Here's how they both work:
This works well for small amounts of veggies that you would consider eating raw, as they won't pickle a ton in a short time. I like to do this with shallots, carrots, red onions, scallions, cucumbers, etc, to add additional flavor and texture to salads and noodle dishes. All you have to do is thinly slice or shred your vegetable into small pieces, douse them with vinegar until covered, and let them sit while you make the rest of the meal. Good options are seasoned rice vinegar - it already has sugar and salt added - or white vinegar, which is pretty aggressive (and why we also use it as a household cleaner!), with sugar and salt added to taste. Let the veggies pickle for at least 10 minutes, or as long as it takes you to make the rest of the meal, then drain and use to garnish or mix into your dish.
This method is slightly more complicated as it involves making a brine, but it takes only a few minutes and will keep your larger amounts of vegetables pickled in the refrigerator for a few weeks (I have been known to keep them much longer). You'll need the following, multiplied as necessary depending on how much you want to pickle:
- 1 cup very hot water
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup vinegar (I use unseasoned rice vinegar usually; if using seasoned, cut the salt and sugar in half)
Stir the salt and sugar into the water in a large jar or bowl until dissolved. Add the vinegar and stir to combine. Prep your veggies by slicing them thinly - this is a nice time to use a mandoline or a box grater. Options include cabbage, beets, asparagus, beans, or any of the above veggies, or whatever you think might taste nice pickled. Add directly to the jar and let cool, or add to the bowl and then transfer to a sealed container once cool, making sure you have enough brine to cover the veggies. If you want to change up the flavor, try adding a thumb of peeled ginger or a garlic clove or some spices for an extra boost.