A guide to pickling at home

Pickling in-season produce is a millennia-old tradition that not only preserves bountiful harvests for less verdant months, but adds a hit of acidity and vibrancy to any dish. Choose the right type of vinegar and the right mix of spices to enhance the flavours of those ripe fruits and vegetables, and you’ll be itching to enjoy them long before winter hits.

Different vinegars have different levels of acidity (in the same way that different salts are varying degrees of salty), so experiment to find the right mix of vinegar, salt, sugar and water for each vegetable.

Pickled calamari, octopus, mussels and prawns make a terrific addition to an antipasto platter, while using rice wine vinegar, mirin and spices like star anise, cinnamon and Szechuan peppercorns to pickle shiitake mushrooms makes a great addition to an Asian spread.

Many vinegars, like red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar and fruit vinegars add not only acidity to your pickles, but additional flavour, while balsamic vinegars also add complex sweetness. Infuse an extra hit of flavour by incorporating garlic, ginger, citrus peel or other aromats to your pickles.

Tougher vegetables and fruits, such as pumpkin, carrots, radishes and apples, should be cooked slightly in your pickling mix, while softer ingredients (cucumber, berries, mushrooms, etc.) should have the cooled pickling liquor added.

The following basic recipe can be easily modified to incorporate your favourite vinegars, spices, salts and sugars, and is ready in under an hour. Scale up as needed.


2/3 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
1 cup chopped vegetables

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved.

For coarse vegetables, pour hot liquid over and leave mix sitting for at least 30 minutes until eating.

For softer vegetables and fruits, allow pickling liquid to cool before combining.

Store in the fridge in a airtight container and use within a week.

Visit your nearest The Essential Ingredient store for jars, vinegars, spices, salts, sugars and all your pickling essentials.


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