Quick Pickle Recipes

Make refrigerator pickles in minutes with these easy ideas from Twin Cities culinary instructor Jason Ross
Quick-and-easy refrigerator pickles in classic dill and sweet/savory bread and butter varieties, plus onions and beets

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

Three large, ripe cucumbers appeared on my counter. I still need to investigate their appearance. Did they find their way to the counter by means of my husband who received the gift from a gardening coworker? Or are they from the parents of our son’s friend on the next block who once had a bin of cucumbers near their front sidewalk as an offering to passersby? However this gift made its way to us, now I am thinking of ways to use them beyond simply slicing and adding to a salad. I imagine you may have received similar gifts or have a harvest of cucumbers lingering about. Pickles are, of course, a great use of this veggie.

It might seem as if pickles are too much work to make at home, requiring specific expertise or specialized equipment, but according to Twin Cities culinary instructor Jason Ross, quick pickles, or refrigerator pickles as they are also called, are just that—quick and easy. With the following recipes that Ross developed for Real Food, you can make quick pickles in the time it takes to boil and cool a pot of brine. There are some pickles that take only minutes—just a sprinkle of salt, sugar and a dash of vinegar. And, of course, pickles can be made with a variety of veggies from the bountiful harvest.

Classic Dill Pickle Spears

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

This is the crowd favorite, the dill spear.

1 English cucumber
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup water
1 cup white distilled vinegar
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon roughly chopped dill
½ teaspoon whole coriander
½ teaspoon whole allspice
¼ teaspoon red pepper flake
2 whole cloves garlic, skins on

  1. Cut cucumber into spears about 4 inches long. Place spears in a medium size mixing bowl.
  2. Place remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Pour the boiling brine over the cucumbers. Allow the pickles to cool in the brine until the liquid is nearly room temperature, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  4. The pickles are ready to serve but can be stored in jars or plastic storage containers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Bread and Butter Pickles

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

This is the classic. When you think of quick pickles—refrigerator pickles—this is the one. Sweet and tangy, they appeal to kids and adults and are perfect for burgers, hot dogs, or almost any sandwich.

1 English cucumber
½ medium white onion
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon turmeric

  1. Slice cucumber and onion half into ¼-inch slices. Toss with salt and let sit for 10 minutes then strain out any liquid from the bowl. Return cucumber and onion slices to bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring remaining ingredients to a boil.
  3. Pour the boiling brine over the cucumber and onion slices in bowl. Allow the cucumbers and onions to cool in the brine until the liquid is nearly room temperature, roughly 30 minutes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  4. The pickles are ready to eat but can be stored covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Brine Pickled Onions

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

Here is another pickle worth keeping around for almost any meal. Try pickled onions with grilled foods, on any sandwich or poached seafood.

1 medium white onion
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup water
1 cup white distilled vinegar
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon whole coriander
2 bay leaves

  1. Cut onion into ¼-inch slices and place in a medium size-mixing bowl.
  2. Place remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Pour the boiling brine over the onions. Allow the onions to cool in the brine until the liquid is nearly room temperature, roughly 30 minutes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  4. The onions are ready to serve but can be stored in a jar or plastic storage container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Swedish 1-2-3 Pickles

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

The ratio is simple to remember: 1 part vinegar, 2 parts sugar, and 3 parts water. Use it on beets as in this recipe or get creative and try it with poached shrimp or green beans—or if you want to get really Swedish, try it with herring! Traditionally these are made with high-acid attika Swedish vinegar. The recipe works great with distilled white vinegar, but try adding an extra tablespoon if you like a little extra snap.

1 pound fresh beets
3 tablespoons kosher salt
½ cup white distilled vinegar
1 cup sugar
1½ cups water
1 bay leaf

  1. In a medium saucepan, add the beets and 2 quarts water, making sure the water covers the beets—add water as needed—and salt, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook beets about 30 minutes for medium size, until tender. Check for doneness by inserting a paring knife in the center of beet. The knife should pierce the flesh easily when done.
  2. While the beets are cooking prepare the brine. In a small saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar, water, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Pour the hot brine into a small mixing bowl and cool in the refrigerator.
  3. When the beets are done, transfer to a bowl and discard the liquid. Allow beets to cool slightly until they are still warm but not too hot to the touch.
  4. Use a paper towel to peel the beets by rubbing the skins off in your hands.
  5. Slice beets into ¼-inch slices and place in a jar or plastic storage container. Pour the cooled brine over the beets and cover. If you prefer more of a relish, try dicing the beets instead.
  6. The beets are ready to eat but can be stored and refrigerated covered for up to 1 week, in jars or plastic storage containers.

The Quickest Pickles

Makes 6 to 8 servings

This is super-fast and versatile. Try atop salads, burgers, and more. Slice ¼ red onion and ½ English cucumber into thin 1/8-inch slices. Place in large mixing bowl and toss to coat with 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Pour in ¼ cup white distilled vinegar and toss to fully coat. Transfer pickles to a jar or a plastic storage container. They are ready to eat within 10 minutes and will store covered and refrigerated up to 3 days.

 

Nutrition info (per serving)

  • Classic Dill Pickle Spears: Per Serving: Calories 15 (1 From Fat); Fat 0g (Sat. 0g); Chol 0mg; Sodium 203mg; Carb 3g; Fiber 1g; Protein 0g
  • Bread and Butter Pickles: Per Serving: Calories 39 (1 From Fat); Fat 0g (Sat. 0g); Chol 0mg; Sodium 128mg; Carb 10g; Fiber 1g; Protein 0g
  • Brine Pickled Onions: Per Serving: Calories 14 (0 From Fat); Fat 0g (Sat. 0g); Chol 0mg; Sodium 203mg; Carb 3g; Fiber 0g; Protein 0g
  • Swedish 1-2-3 Pickles: Per Serving: Calories 42 (1 From Fat); Fat 0g (Sat. 0g); Chol 0mg; Sodium 354mg; Carb 10g; Fiber 2g; Protein 1g
  • The Quickest Pickles: Per Serving: Calories 5 (0 From Fat); Fat 0g (Sat. 0g); Chol 0mg; Sodium 102mg; Carb 1g; Fiber 0g; Protein 0g

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Mary Subialka
Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.