You Can Pickle That: the Universal Pickle Recipe


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The long history of the word “pickle” tells you all you need to know about making pickles at home.

The word first appeared in English during the obscure centuries before Chaucer, and it likely originated from an even older root word meaning “a thing that pricks or has piquancy.” By Shakespeare’s day—roughly 400 years ago—“pickle” had developed its modern usage. In Anthony and Cleopatra, the queen threatens to have a servant whipped with wires and thrown into a vat of pickling brine, which she promises will be a stinging punishment. The poor guy was about to find himself “in a pickle” as we would say today—thrown into an uncomfortable situation.

The takeaway is that a pickle’s tangy taste—its pleasant, mild sting—is caused by acidity. At the most basic level, a pickle is nothing more than a vegetable submerged in an acidic liquid. From a food preservation standpoint, acidity is what preserves the vegetable, and as mentioned in my last post, acidity is also the silver bullet against botulism and other food-borne disease.

This Universal Pickle Recipe uses vinegar for acidity, and it’s one of a class known as “vinegar pickles” or “quick pickles.” In addition to the familiar cucumber pickles, you can also use this recipe to pickle sturdy vegetables including green beans, zucchini, carrots, celery, onions, beets, and even some greens, as described below. 

The technique is safe, very easy, and flexible enough to adapt to almost any taste.

8/16/2020 1:39:08 PM

I pickle beets often and use 1-cup vinegar; 1-cup water and 1-cup sugar ...... makes a tangy-sweet beet. I refrigerate.

7/6/2015 12:19:52 PM

When we make cucumber pickles we use my grandmother's pickle recipes, one for dills and one for sweet. The sweet pickle recipe takes thirteen days and the dill takes two or three. Both have to be canned for long term storage but I have yet to find a better tasting pickle either sweet or dill.

7/6/2015 9:59:01 AM

This is basically the same recipe I use for canning pickles. I didn't know that you could use it for making quick pickles too! Thank you for a very thorough article.

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