Monday, July 13, 2015

Small-Batch Pickled Anything (specifically sugar snap peas)

So pretty!
We are in high summer mode around here. Which means, among other things, that we acquire more produce from our CSA than I really feel like wrestling into meals. Especially since I don’t make dinner any more! (Kidding! Sort of.)

By the next day, they've camouflaged themselves in an army-issue kind of a way. Not adding to the overall look, and not pictured here, is the shower cap covering the jar because I broke the glass lid.
So I’ve been pickling stuff. And there are two benefits to this: 1) We love pickles, and if there is a jar of pickled something in the fridge, everyone will dig in, whereas unprepped veggies can languish until you pull from the fridge a bag of brown slime that’s exhibit A in an exposé about the irony of the phrase “crisper drawer.” And 2) Pickling preserves your produce and sanity, which means it slows everything down so that you have enough time to eat something before it rots.

Summer haircut!
There’s a very simple formula, and with it you can pickle (nearly) all things: asparagus, radishes, sugar snap peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and even, yes, cucumbers (although I prefer a cuke method that uses a little fermentation). Are you ready for it? Pack clean veggies in a clean canning jar with whatever flavorings you like (fresh herbs, chiles, whole spices, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, shallots, ginger, strips of lemon or orange zest). Bring equal parts water and white vinegar to a boil, along with 1 tablespoon of salt for every cup of vinegar. Pour the brine over the veggies. Cool. Refrigerate. Done. (Note: I am not talking about canning here. If you’re just making small batches, these will keep perfectly well in the fridge until they’re eaten.)

Summer ransom note. (I think the kids are making a movie.)
One thing: make more brine than you think you need! For a quart-sized jar, I bring to a boil 2 cups of water, 2 cups of white vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of salt. (Okay, 3 tablespoons of salt. Not to mess up the ratios, but because I often like to up the salt a little.) Yes, there’s some leftover, but I’d rather that than have to make a whole nother extra ¼ cup of brine to cover the last inch of vegetables. 
Summer sewing project.
But then again, I’m the person who will nearly abandon a sewing project if I run out of thread right near the end, because tying it off and starting a new piece just to stitch up that last inch makes me cry.

The official dilly bean recipe is here.
That’s it. 
If you are serious about pickling and preserving, then I trust you frequent the fabulous Food In Jars blog. I love her.
Now, that said, you might finesse the recipe on certain occasions. For example, for the sugar snaps, I cooled the brine before pouring it over the peas because I wanted the peas to stay sweet and snappy, and boy did they. These are among the best pickles I have ever made or eaten, or we’ve been slicing them into tuna salad, where they add the most incredible crunch and zing and sweetness.

The official dill pickle recipe is here.
On the opposite end of things, I like to put green beans or sliced carrots in a colander and pour a kettle full of boiling water over them before packing them in a jar and adding the hot brine, because I like them to be a bit more tender. But you can experiment and see what works best for the different veggies you’re pickling.

Summer herbs drying.
Seasoning is the fun part, and here are some of my favorite combinations:
  • Asparagus with tarragon and chopped shallots
  • Radishes with chopped ginger, a splash of soy sauce, and a little sugar
  • Sugar snap peas with garlic, mint, hot pepper, and a whisper of sugar
  • Green beans with garlic, hot pepper or black peppercorns, and dill or tarragon
  • Broccoli or cauliflower with garlic, chiles, lemon zest, and cumin and coriander seeds

Capers made from unopened milkweed buds! Because these are meant to be a condiment, I boiled together a cup of white vinegar (no water) with a tablespoon of kosher salt, and poured the hot brine over 1/2 cup of buds. I do sliced jalapenos that way too.
Also, you should note that many (most?) pickle recipes will call for white wine or cider vinegar. Please use whatever you like best! For me, it’s the clean, sweet flavor of white vinegar, even though I know it’s, like, a petroleum by-product or distilled from corn cobs or whatever.

Summer berries. Not pictured: summer spider bites; summer abstracted grumpiness; summer mildewy towels; summer not getting enough work done; summer house coated in damp greasy dust; summer eating too much Fritos.

Pickled Sugar Snap Peas
If you have fewer peas, just scale down accordingly! And skip the sugar if you like. I happen to like the way it emphasizes the sweetness of the peas.

Enough sugar snap peas to fill a 1-quart jar, ends snapped off and strings pulled off
1 dried red chile or a pinch of chile flakes (if you like)
3 or 4 small sprigs of fresh mint (or dill or tarragon)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups water
2 cups white vinegar
3 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups water

Pack the peas into the jar along with the chile, herbs, and garlic.
Heat together the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar just to dissolve the salt and sugar, then stir in the cold water.
Pour the brine over the peas and refrigerate.
Try to wait at least a day before eating, although they’re good right away.


  1. For you and your blueberries: 2 pints berries, 1 c simple syrup. Muddle. Add 4 smashed cinnamon sticks and 3 1/4 cup rum. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 7 days. Strain, then serve on ice only to people who truly deserve it. Credit to Mr. Schloss on Spendid Table this week - enjoy!

  2. Pickles! Love! Hooray!

  3. I love seeing my feed that you have posted something - it inspires me to cook (or pickle as today's case may be). Sadly, this week is no CSA since we are headed out for vacation, but when we come back next week I am definitely trying some new combonations! I am also DEFINITELY trying Libby's blueberry delight posted above. I make something similar with wild raspberries - a riff on the German rumtopf: Equal parts crushed berries, berry juice, and rum and 1/2 as much sugar. (I try for 2 cups berries, 2 cups juice, 2 cups rum, and 1 cup sugar - but some years the berries are not as plentiful.) Pour into wide mouth mason jars (or something that will work for your space) and let sit for 4 weeks. Then serve over poundcake, ice cream, over ice - it's delightful!. It will last a year (or so).

  4. Oh my goodness. You are a mind reader! I have been dying to pickle some vegetables to use on tacos, sandwiches etc. The internet has so many recipes, but if Catherine Newman says this is good then I believe it wholeheartedly. Thank you!

  5. Wonderful and timely post! I have a fridge of veggies which need to be used. Laughing out loud at your perfectly-worded and true phrase "unprepped veggies can languish until you pull from the fridge a bag of brown slime that’s exhibit A in an exposé about the irony of the phrase “crisper drawer.”"

  6. Late last week, I was at the doctor's office with my oldest, having discovered that she has diabetes (scary!). Flipping through Real Simple, I was physically relieved to see your advice column there. As I read your kind, wise counsel, I felt like I had a friend there at the office with us. Also, the sketch they have of you is so great. Sometimes when I read the letters seeking advice, I just want to throw those dolts out the window. You have a wonderful way of reminding me that one faux pas doesn't devalue people's humanity. Thanks for being so nice and generous with all of us.

    1. Oh Junebug, thank you. Love, love, love back atcha. xo

  7. janell5:02 PM

    I know this post is on food but just gotta say that I love, LOVE the dress. Did you use a pattern from somewhere or come up with it on your own? I think I've got to make something like this!

    1. Janell, I free-handed them, but I looked at images of them online (search term "spiral applique"), which all seemed to be based on an Alabama Chanin pattern. You are SO NICE to notice and ask. xo

  8. Oh, wow, this might just end my recent summer resolution to cast of the shackles of domesticity and never cook/clean anything again.

  9. BethY2:45 PM

    Your caption on the blueberries had me rolling, best thing I've read all day! It's the reason I keep finding you after a dozen years! And while I've been up since 4:50 this morning I am inexplicably still in my pajamas. Thanks for making me feel better.
    Of course you are so right I love pickled green beans but almost always let them morph into slime pods before I think pickles!
    Also loving the sewing project so much! I might just overcome my sewing aversion induced by the 1999 Martha Stewart sew everyone a Christmas gift debacle.
    Ok enough already, I apparently just love everything today!

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  11. Danielle11:18 PM

    I am quite late on commenting on this, but I wanted to say that I discovered a nifty new trick of pickling nasturtium buds into another caperish condiment. Very nice and spicy. I will try the milkweed idea next year.

  12. (VERY LATE) Begging: an "after" photo of the stitched dress and... if you can spare some words about this kind of project. Is it an _Alabama Stitch_ kind of project? Something you recommended and shared eons ago? If you could say more, I'd be soooo thankful! Because that dress looks AMAZING. And I've been wanting to try these kinds of projects forever.

    We're very happy with the recipes, but some sewing once in a while wouldn't hurt!

    Pretty pretty Please?

    L or Mama(e) in Translation, formerly (only until 2004 before I started blogging) your "neighbor"