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A Quick Guide to Quick Pickling Fruits & Vegetables

Have tons of fresh produce and don't want it to go to waste? Make the most of your veggies by quick pickling them in the fridge. It's easier than you'd think, and super delicious too. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

6 min read

For pickling newbies, the thought of boiling jars and making sure lids are sealed properly can be a bit intimidating. That’s why we’re all about quick-pickling when we need a quick pickle fix. We chatted with Marisa McClellan of the popular site Food in Jars for her tips on how to maximize veggie goodness and spice up your salads and pizzas with some easy-to-pickle produce.

Choose Produce at Peak Ripeness

You want produce at peak ripeness. If it’s not perfectly peaking yet, choose underripe fruit and veggies over soft, squishy ones. For maximum freshness, it's helpful to use produce that's currently in season.

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What Can You Quick-Pickle?

This time of year you have so many options! Some of our favorite things to quick-pickle:

  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Green Beans
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Apricots
  • Italian Prune Plums
  • Red Onions

Easy Quick Pickle Recipe

Feel free to adjust the below measurements based on your jar sizes and volume of produce to pickle, but here are the basic ratios:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Your fruit or veggie of choice
  • 3-4 tablespoons of sugar or honey (optional)

Combine water, vinegar, salt, and optional sugar or honey in a pot and bring to a boil. While the pickling liquid heats up, trim the ends off fruit or veggies and thinly slice with a knife or mandoline. Once the liquid is boiling, add these soon-to-be-pickles into the pot, then remove from heat after a few minutes and pour everything into your jars. Let the jars cool down to room temperature, then add lids and stash jars in the back of the fridge.

How Long Do Quick Pickles Last in the Refrigerator?

Up to a month. The more you open the jar, the more household bacteria you introduce into the pickles. Since there’s yeast and mold spores in the air (which is totally fine and normal, don't worry!) you’ll want to eat those pickles within a month of making them to limit your bacteria intake.

Want to know how long other things last in the fridge? Learn the shelf life of homemade sauces and how long leftovers last, plus proper storage tips to keep your fruits and veggies fresh.

How to Store Quick Pickles

It’s better to do a couple small jars over one big jar for quick pickles, unless you’re planning to eat them all immediately. The pickles will last longer in multiple small jars since opening and closing jars introduces those micro-organisms that can lead to quicker spoilage. Don't have any jars? Any glass food storage container will also work, just be sure to seal it well.

Quick But Not Instant: How Long Do They Take to Pickle?

For maximum flavor, let those pickles sit for at least 24 hours. Quick pickles are definitely quick, but not instant. When you pickle vegetables, the salt you use makes the cell walls of your produce more permeable. This allows the water in the vegetables to flow out and the vinegar (and the other flavors it carries) to flow in. This process isn't immediate so you need to give it a little time. Remember osmosis from middle school science class? It's the same process.

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Quick Pickle Brine Ideas

Asian-Inspired Pickles

Use rice wine vinegar as the vinegar base and add a dash of fish sauce. Mix in red pepper flakes, ginger, mint, and green onions.

Italian-Inspired Pickles

Use red wine vinegar as the vinegar base and add a splash of olive oil. Mix in lots of garlic (chopped instead of whole cloves to bump up the garlicky-ness) and oregano.

Mexican-Inspired Pickles

Use apple cider vinegar as the brine base and add a few squeezes of lime juice. Mix in cilantro and cumin seeds.

Don’t Have Spices? Try a Tea Bag

Jasmine tea bags are loaded with flavor. Pop a bag into your jar and the brine instantly borrows its floral flavor profile.

Don’t Underestimate Red Onions

If you’re going to quick-pickle one thing, let it be the red onion. Arguably the most versatile thing to pickle, red onions are a pantry workhorse. Keep the brine simple with white vinegar, salt, water, and some sugar. Throw them on salads with crumbled goat cheese and toasted nuts; tuck them into your hot dog; toss them into a potato salad; top them on grilled pizza. Endless possibilities, people!

Zero Waste Tip: Reuse the Brine

Once you’ve eaten all those delicious pickles, don’t throw out the brine. Add a little extra vinegar (since the fruit & veggies have released water, therefore diluting the brine) and you’ll have ready-to-use-again brine. Great in salad dressings. Also, picklebacks! Plus, get more ideas for zero waste cooking to use up leftovers.

Can't get enough pickles? Learn how to pickle green beans with this Dilly Beans recipe from Rick's Picks.


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