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4 Recipes for Quick Pickles

Make the best herb-infused pickles you've tasted, faster than you ever imagined.

| August/September 2009

  • "What I love about quick herbal pickling is that I never make the same recipe twice." —Letitia L. Star
    Photo by Howard Lee Puckett

The pleasure of late summer is the burgeoning abundance of available fresh herbs—whether plucked from your own garden or obtained from your local farmers’ market. A good way to savor these herbal treasures is by using them to make quick pickled vegetables, which can be ready in about an hour or so.

Unlike traditional canning methods, these easy-to-prepare recipes take just 10 to 20 minutes to assemble. Then all you need to do is chill the jar in the refrigerator for about an hour, until cold. The pickles do need to be refrigerated, however, so if you want basement shelves full of pickles, you’ll need to take the longer, more involved canning route. 

4 Quick Pickle Recipes:

 Garlic Pickled Mustard Greens
 Herbal Heirloom Tomato Pickles
 Rosemary & Sage Quick Pickles
 Homemade Herb Pickling Mix 

Beyond Garlic and Dill

Most supermarket pickles are predictably seasoned with garlic, dill and standard pickling spices. By making your own quick pickles, you can use many different fragrant herbs.

Basil, oregano, thyme, mint, sage, dill, rosemary, chives, garlic, tarragon and nasturtiums all lend themselves beautifully to pickle recipes. Seeds to experiment with include mustard, coriander and fennel. Even if you’ve used the leaves in other recipes, leftover herb twigs and stems can add herb-infused flavor in your quick pickle jar.

Quick Creativity

What I love about quick herbal pickling is that I never make the same recipe twice. There’s always a new, intriguing herb or herb combination I want to marry with fresh organic vegetables. When I go to my familiar herb source, Teresa Santiago’s booth at a local farmers’ market, I find herbs that inspire quick pickling creativity.

Unlike many supermarket pickles, these recipes don’t contain artificial food colorings and preservatives, or refined sugar. The recipes also are much easier than canning, which can require hours of intense labor to properly seal pickled produce in hot, sterile canning jars.

Quick herbal pickling is a great way to reuse old glass pickle, olive and salsa jars. They don’t need to be sterilized, just clean. 
The only possible downside is that quick pickled vegetables should be consumed within a week or so.  However, if you are pleased with the results, that won’t be a challenge.

Preserving Our Plant Diversity

You can help preserve America’s horticultural history by buying or growing heirloom herbs and vegetables for these recipes. Heirloom plants often have a more interesting flavor, texture and color than their mass-marketed counterparts.

Heirloom Seeds in southwestern Pennsylvania offers many varieties of heirloom herbs that lend themselves to quick pickling recipes. These include many basils, chives, Greek oregano, dill, rosemary, sage, spearmint, peppermint, Russian tarragon and English thyme.

I was delighted to discover an organic heirloom cucumber from India called Poona Kheera at the farmers’ market. Its delicate taste and texture proved to be a perfect choice for unique herb pickles with rosemary and sage. 

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