Pickling used to be something people did to preserve fresh foods for the cold winter—often vegetables, though meat, fruit and eggs also were commonly used. Many explorers and seafarers are known to have pickled foods to preserve them for long voyages, hopefully preventing scurvy along the way. These days most of us have access to fresh fruits and veggies all year long, so pickles are as essential as they once were, but they still go great with a pastrami sandwich.

Quick pickling vs. fermented

One of the first things to explore when it comes to pickling is the difference between “quick pickles” and fermented pickles. Quick pickles are typically made by soaking the veggies in a vinegar mixture for just a few days. Fermented pickles take longer. They’re made by brining the items in a salty solution, inducing anaerobic fermentation.

Sauerkraut and kimchi are examples of foods that ferment when you add dry salt. Pickles made through fermentation have prebiotics and probiotics, which are thought to have health benefits, though the benefits are not totally understood and continue to be studied.

For quick pickling, I use this recipe by Shutterbean. I keep coming back to it over and over again. I sometimes sub in a bit of white vinegar instead of using all cider vinegar. But see what you like about these other recipes too.

So what can you pickle? Almost anything, in fact. Here are a few things to try.

Eggplant

This recipe on Serious Eats combines eggplant with mint and garlic (and red wine vinegar) for a zippy yet pleasant result.

Beets

Pickled beets are fairly common—and they are my favorite thing to pickle. Pop them on salad, in your rice, on a sandwich, or just eat them on their own. They’re that good. Try this recipe from Canadian Living. Skip some of the spices if you don’t feel like using them. Personally I like to keep my pickles simple.

Bell peppers and green beans

For a slim pickle with a pleasant crunch, try bell peppers or green beans. Both can often be found on sale sometimes at the grocery store or at farmers markets, and make a really nice topping to a green salad. Also, pickled green beans are visually cool and fit nicely in a jar.

Classic dill pickles from cucumbers

This is the one we all know and most of us love. It’s a crunchy cucumber brined in salt water and a bit of vinegar to create a timeless dill pickle. Give it a whirl.

A bit of everything

There’s no reason why you can combine and pickle up a bunch of vegetables that are lingering around your crisper, half-finished and starting to fade. Jamie Oliver does just that in this recipe, adding olive oil to the mix.

What’s your favorite food to pickle? Let us know in the comments!

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