Get Yourself in a Pickle
The art of pickling has gone far beyond the simple sour cucumber. Get in on the action with tips from the founder of Boat Street Pickles.
If you walk down the grocery aisle where the Claussens and Vlasics cohabitate, you will probably now also see a slew of small-batch, spiced-up pickle varieties—and not just of the cucumber ilk, either. Both artisanal food experimenters and tang-craving chefs have been tossing all manner of produce into vinegar baths, from beets and okra to blueberries and apricots. Pickling might sound tricky, but as long as you’re not looking to make a batch to last you through the winter (which requires canning tools), all you need is this recipe from Renee Erickson, the founder of Seattle-based Boat Street Pickles, and a refrigerator.
RECIPE: Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
2 pints cherry tomatoes
4 cups white wine or cider vinegar
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon whole peppercorns
Small bunch (approximately 6 stems) fresh tarragon
Wash and drain the tomatoes, remove the stems, and cut them in half. Place in a lidded container large enough to hold the tomatoes and about five cups of liquid. In a saucepan, combine the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for three minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Carefully pour the hot brine over the tomatoes, and stir carefully. Let cool to room temperature, and store covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Serve with crostini, grilled fish, or anything else that sounds good to you.
Some tips for further pickle experimentation:
Stock up on vinegar: This is the essential ingredient to the no-fuss process (whereas the fermentation method used for classic dill pickles and kimchi relies on pickling salt). “We use cider vinegar for fruits that have already changed in color (dried plums and figs),” explains Erickson. “Or try white wine vinegar that contains sulfites to prevent discoloring.”
Understand the ratios: Though there aren’t hard and fast rules, a three-to-one ratio of vinegar to sugar is a good starting point. Adjust from there depending on your taste and how much natural sweetness your produce has. Because herbs and spices won’t affect the chemical process, dabble away.
Get to know your vegetables (or fruits): Erickson is a big fan of vinegar-dredged apricots and rhubarb—which proves that you can preserve just about anything using this tactic. The key is keeping the stability of your produce in mind when you think storage: Cherry tomatoes, because of their water-logged consistency, break down more quickly than denser options like green beans, okra, or beets, which will last a little longer in the fridge.