Roam your garden or the aisle of the farmers market and summer produce overflows. Every color and shape sparkles like jewels. You eat those fresh veggies raw, or steam, roast, sauté, bake, boil or fry them and they still keep coming.
Preserve them? No way! While that crunchy vegetable would taste good in a flavorful brine, the thought of canning them is as off-putting as scaling a building. It takes too much time, it takes equipment you don’t have and well, it is just plain scary.
How about a compromise? This refrigerator recipe for pickled vegetables is oh-so-good.
Best of all, it is not scary — but then again, it isn’t canned. While veggies fill a canning jar, looks are deceiving. You must store the jar in the refrigerator and use it within a month. It is nothing more than a glorified, marinated salad, but it is a great way to capture summer produce and use it in new ways.
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How do you serve them? They make a great, healthy snack and add a crispy zing to any salad, sandwich or burger. But don’t stop there. Top nachos or tacos with pickled peppers, radishes or onions or let any pickled vegetable shine on a charcuterie tray or top an appetizer spread.
Quick Pickled Vegetables
Vegetables: Select one or a combination of vegetables. Wash vegetables well, trim and cut into even pieces. Stack in a clean wide-mouth pint-size canning jar.
Beets, sliced (Beets will tint the liquid and other vegetables in the jar a rosy shade of pink.)
Bell or chile peppers, seeded cut into strips. (Peppers are especially good if roasted and peeled. Cut away stems and quarter. Place the peppers skin side up on a baking sheet; broil 5 to 10 minutes or until blackened and charred. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover loosely with a towel. When cool enough to handle, peel away the blackened skins and slice the peppers into strips.)
Onions, peeled and sliced
Sugar snap peas
Fennel, trimmed, cored and sliced
Enough for 1 pint-size jar
1 to 3 garlic cloves, sliced
Sprig fresh herb and/or pinch crushed red pepper flakes, optional
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup distilled water
2 to 4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
Fill a pint-size wide-mouth canning jar with vegetables. Add sliced garlic and a sprig of fresh herb and/or crushed red pepper, if desired.
Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Heat until boiling, stirring frequently. Cook, stirring, until sugar and salt dissolve. Pour boiling brine over vegetables in the jar. Be sure to scrape the peppercorns into the jar and cover the vegetables completely with the brine.
Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover jars and refrigerate. Use within 1 month.
The flavor of the pickled vegetables will be the mildest in about 24 hours and will intensify as the days go by. Vegetables cannot be prepared in this fashion for canning or longer preservation. Be sure to keep refrigerated and use within 1 month; do not store at room temperature.
Begin with fresh, firm, crisp vegetables. Do no use waxed vegetables.
Adjust the sugar and other flavorings to the vegetables and to your tastes. For example, beets and turnips are often sweet and added sugar is a plus. Cauliflower, green beans or cucumbers all benefit from a pinch of crushed red pepper. Green beans are spot-on with a sprig of tarragon while other veggies might be perfectly paired with dill, thyme, rosemary or parsley.
Use distilled water to keep the freshest color and look. Tap water may become cloudy. Other vinegars can be used since these vegetables are not intended to be stored for longer periods; try rice vinegar, red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar for a change in flavor. Use Kosher salt; table salt will become bitter.
Wash the jar and lid in hot soapy water. Rinse just before filling in very hot water. Be sure your hands, utensils and countertop are clean.
Kathy Moore is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is “Delicious Dump Cakes.” Other recent books include “Slow Cooker Desserts, Oh So Easy, Oh So Delicious” and “The Newlywed Cookbook: Cooking Happily Ever After.” She develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com.