Senior Travel Editor Andrea Minarcek is long on cooking aspirations, but short on time. For this round of the Cookbook Club, she tried he...
I’ve baked. I’ve grilled. I even preserved once. But pickling? That was foreign territory to me. And as pickled foods have become more and more popular on restaurant menus, I’ve gotten curious. How hard would it be to add some homemade, zesty crunch to my meals? When I spied this recipe for fast pickles in The Picnic cookbook, I immediately dog-eared the page to give it a try.
Why this recipe?I’d always shied away from pickling because it seemed like such a big time commitment. (I’ll admit: When I cook, I like same-day enjoyment!) These pickles can be made in just a few minutes and then eaten a few hours later.
Plus, the cookbook promised: “These speedy pickles keep in the refrigerator for up to a month, so you’ll always be prepared should a picnic pop up.” I think that appealed to the Girl Scout in me.
What was it like to make it?These really are shockingly simple. You load up a sealable jar with slivered cucumbers, thinly sliced garlic, and dill. Then, you boil the easy-to-make brine and pour it into the cucumber-loaded jar. After the brine cools, you refrigerate the pickles until you’re ready to snack—or picnic. Even as a somewhat-slow chopper, I finished this Quickle Pickle recipe in 30 minutes flat.
The only potentially hard part is pouring the boiling-hot brine into the jar. Be sure to use a long-handled pot for the brine and oven mitts with long sleeves to make this step as safe as possible.
How did it turn out?Delicious. The pickles were full of fresh-dill flavor with a subtle saltiness and sweetness. I was curious about how the pickles would age, and whether they’d taste more intense in a few days’ time. But I never had the chance to find out. Our picnic group gobbled them all up that afternoon—an even stronger testament to the pickles’ tastiness.
Will I make it again?Definitely. And I’m looking forward to experimenting with it, too. As the cookbook says, you can “use this basic brine as a guide” and create different flavor combinations by substituting various herbs, spices, vinegars, and vegetables. The Picnic even includes seven additional recipes, including ideas for pickled carrots, beets, and fennel. I’m most intrigued by the recipe for giardiniera, the classic Italian condiment. This iteration calls for red pepper, celery, carrots, cauliflower, pepperoncini peppers, fresh oregano, red pepper flakes, and black peppercorns—it sounds promisingly spicy!
Would I bring it to a picnic?Certainly. They’re tasty, travel well, and look downright gift-worthy in a cute Mason jar.
QUICKLE PICKLES from The Picnic
Makes 12 to 14 ounces
12 ounces pickling cucumbers, such as Kirby8 dill sprigs4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Brine1 tablespoon fennel seeds1 1/4 cups white-wine vinegar1 cup water2 tablespoons honey1 1/2 tablespoons fine sea salt
- Wash and dry the cucumbers well. Trim any stems and quarter the cucumbers lengthwise into spears. Pack the spears into a wide-mouth 1-quart glass jar, along with the dill sprigs and garlic.
- To make the brine: Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the fennel seeds and swirl the pan constantly, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 30 seconds. (Be careful not to burn the seeds or they will become bitter.) Off the heat, pour in the vinegar, water, honey, and salt. Bring the brine to a strong boil over high heat, stirring until the honey and salt are dissolved. Pour the boiling brine into the jar to completely cover the vegetables. (Reserve any leftover brine, and return it to a boil to pickle something else.)
- Set the jar aside and allow the brine to slowly come to room temperature. When completely cooled, after at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours, cover the jar and refrigerate the pickles until the picnic, or for up to 1 month.
Excerpted from The Picnic by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson (Artisan Books). Copyright (c) 2015.