Your pickles do not need to look like an 18th century still life. But they can!

Maybe because a jar of sauerkraut isn’t as social media–friendly as bread, or because of that Portlandia sketch, pickling has a certain vibe—a little too homesteaderly for some. But if you ignore the whole shelf-stability part and just refrigerate the jars, pickling and fermenting are unbelievably easy, cheap, and excellent ways to preserve vegetables if you aren't hitting the grocery store often. 

Basic Pickle

The following things pickle quite easily and keep pretty much forever in the fridge: fennel, asparagus, green beans, cabbage, red onions or shallots, small turnips, radishes, sliced ginger, carrots, cucumbers, shaved beets. Restaurant trick: If you want to make them yellow, add some turmeric. If you want them magenta—like those striking shallots on your $14 toast—add a couple beet slices. 

  • 1 cup rice wine vinegar (other neutral vinegars like white wine, champagne, and distilled white work just as well)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons sugar
  • Any spices or herbs you want to add: pepper (black, white, or red), coriander, fennel seed, mustard seed, dill (seed, frond, or stem), oregano, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, caraway, star anise, all spice, etc.
  • Clean glass jar
  • Whatever vegetable you choose, cut into bite-size pieces
  1. Bring vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and seasonings to boil in a sauce pan.
  2. Pour over cut vegetables in a jar. Refrigerate overnight. 
Fermented Carrots

Fermented vegetables at the store are absurdly expensive. All you really need to ferment is a jar, salt, water, and something clean and heavy. I recommend sticking to classics like cucumbers, cabbage (either as kimchi or sauerkraut), or carrots. 

Basically you want to create a brine that’s 2 to 3 percent salt. Here’s a recipe for fermented carrots I like. (Disclaimer: Fermenting anything comes with a little risk. Use caution; smell before you taste. If the carrots get moldy or slimy or go beyond pleasantly funky into what-the-fuck territory, then toss them in the compost.)

  • 1/2 pound of carrots, washed and cut into rounds
  • 4 cups water, ideally distilled or non-chlorinated (but tap works)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaf
  • A gallon-size glass jar
  • A gallon or quart Ziploc bag
  • A coffee filter or piece of plastic wrap
  1. Place the carrots and spices in the glass jar.
  2. In a pitcher or other container, stir the salt into the water until it dissolves. Pour over carrots until they’re covered. You don’t need to use all the solution.
  3. Place the coffee filter or plastic over the brine’s surface, trying not to let spices float up. Partially fill the Ziploc bag with water and place on top of the filter. This should create a sort of seal, so air can escape without the carrots floating to the surface where they might mold. Loosely cover the jar with a lid or paper towel and rubber band.
  4. Set somewhere warmish. Fermentation generally takes about a week. The brine will get a little cloudy from the yeasts. Once the carrots have stopped bubbling, taste one. If it’s to your liking—salty, tart—refrigerate the carrots with the brine. Otherwise, put the Ziploc bag back and let sit a few more days.
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