Only the freshest fruits and vegetables should be used in pickling to ensure a quality product. To see if your produce is ready to be pickled, follow the guidelines below.
Choose crisp, fresh beans, wash them well and trim the ends—no breaking or stringing necessary. Add chilies, dill and garlic for spicy beans or use a sweet brine for a different take.
Choose fresh, firm, unblemished beets. Remove any soft spots, and blanch to remove skins. Try golden or orange beets for color variety. Some recipes add sweet onions for additional flavor.
Cabbage can be a versatile vegetable to pickle, from fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) and kimchi (a fiery hot pickled cabbage) to a sweet pickled cabbage slaw. You can use both red or green cabbage, but discard damaged and coarse outer leaves and rinse in cold water before pickling or fermenting. Measure salt carefully for sauerkraut—it’s important to have the correct amount for fermentation and preservation.
As with other pickle candidates, carrots should be crisp, unblemished and fresh. Make use of different carrot varieties (purple, white, yellow and orange) to add color to your condiment plate and pantry shelf, but keep in mind that with some varieties, the color will bleed into the brine solution. Often, the brine is sweetened with sugar and studded with spices, but you can add onions, red peppers and cauliflower, too.
Pickled cucumbers range from salty dills to sweet gherkins. For the crispiest, crunchiest results, cucumbers should be pickled soon after harvest. Choose small cucumbers to minimize the seedy center, which can be less crunchy. Slice off the blossom end (about 1/16 inch) and discard to help ensure crispness. Bread-and-butter pickles are often made with sliced onions and bell peppers, but again, you can add a little fire by using hot peppers instead.
You can pickle and preserve citrus and rinds for various uses and recipes. Lemons pickled in water, salt and lemon juice are frequently used in Moroccan and Indian foods. Once they’ve fermented at room temperature, preserved lemons have a very strong lemon flavor but are less tart than a fresh lemon.
Sweet, southern pickled peaches are wonderful in the depth of winter. Choose fresh peaches that are unblemished and not overripe. Blanch and cool to remove skins, and halve to pit. The pickling syrup is usually a mixture of vinegar, sugar, water, cloves and cinnamon.
Pickled peppers vary widely depending on the type of pepper used, the preparation method and the brine. They can be added to other pickles for color and heat or pickled by themselves. Choose peppers that are fresh, brightly colored and thickly fleshed. Hungarian, Cubanelle, yellow wax, sweet bell, sweet banana and sweet cherry peppers all work well. If you’re pickling whole peppers, make two or three slits in each pepper to allow the pickling solution to penetrate the pepper.
Do you have the happy dilemma of too many tomatoes? Pickle them. You can pickle green, unripe tomatoes, as well as ripe tomatoes, with a variety of sweet and salty solutions. Again, don’t choose overripe fruit. Cherry tomatoes make great, bite-sized pickles, as well.
Coming from the era of waste not, want not, watermelon-rind pickles use part of the fruit that often ends up discarded, creating a sweet treat with a pear-like texture. Allow some time for preparing them—you’ll need to soak the rinds overnight.
Ready for More?
The foods that can be pickled are only limited by your pantry space. Check out these other sweet, spicy, sour and salty options. For recipes, contact your local cooperative extension office.
Fruits and Vegetables