I spend much of my summer pickling produce; it’s my favorite way to preserve vegetables. As the harvest grows and I haul pounds of cucumbers, snap beans, summer squash, and more from the garden to the kitchen, my canning shelves fill with vinegar-preserved pickles and every other available surface holds fermenting ones. There they wait for weeks, if not months.
So for any given meal, you can also find me making pickles—refreshing, easy ones that take mere minutes to prepare and are gobbled up in as little time. Quick pickles are defined by their name. They won’t satisfy your pickle craving through winter or preserve the bulk of your garden, but they will extend shelf life a bit and give a new flavor spin when you tire of eating a particular fresh vegetable, like beets.
Quick-Pickled Beet Snacks
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (5% or higher acidity)
2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 wide strip of orange peel or splash of homemade triple sec
2 ounces goat cheese or Lemon Cheese
1 tablespoon fresh basil, cut chiffonade
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Slice the beet as thinly as possible using a mandoline or sharp knife. In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, and orange peel to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the beet slices, remove from the heat, and let sit, ideally for 30 minutes. If desired, transfer to a 4-ounce jam jar, submerging the beet slices in the pickling mixture, and store in the refrigerator for 1–2 weeks until ready to use.
To serve, remove the beet slices from the vinegar mixture and set them in a colander over a bowl to drain. Place 1–2 beet slices on each cracker, topping with about a teaspoon of cheese. Sprinkle each with basil cut into a chiffonade, and give each a twist of freshly ground pepper. Makes about 12 crackers.
Tips & Tricks
- Beets require more work than most quick pickles because you have to cook them in some way first. This generally means heating your stove—and your house—so you want to cook as many as possible in one go. Once cooked, they pickle or marinate (see below) as quickly as any other vegetable.
- Did you smoke a batch of beets? They make an amazing quick pickle. If you’re serving a smoky batch, heat lovers will appreciate a dab of Home-Smoked Chili Paste on the goat cheese.
- I grab many quick pickles with my fingers, but that gets messy with red beets. The crackers and goat cheese are an easy, delicious way to transfer these pickles from plate to mouth without staining my fingertips and everything around me. For a more filling snack, Sourdough Pita works well.
- You can quickly pickle almost any vegetable, and even a few fruits. Cucumbers make my favorite Asian pickles but can be mixed with other spices for a different flavor. Other quick-pickle options include asparagus, carrots, snap peas, sweet peppers, rhubarb, apples, and blueberries.
Twice as Tasty
I find it hard to believe, but some people don’t like pickles—including members of my own family. The sharp bite of vinegar is the turnoff for most antipickle people. Some may tolerate fermented pickles, preserved with salt instead of acid, but others may still cringe at the flavor. How should you convert such pickle haters to your point of view?
Quick pickles are a great solution: You can play with the types of acid and sweetener and their balance until you strike a winning combination. You aren’t storing them for months at room temperature, so you don’t have to worry about safe acidity levels—just keep them in the fridge and eat them within a few weeks. But for the most difficult conversions, it may be easiest to drop the name “pickle” and get your potential converts hooked on marinated vegetables. By building a marinade that’s a little more acidic than a salad dressing and letting it soak into the vegetables, you end up with a milder version of a quick pickle.
Orange-Sweetened Marinated Beets
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon minced red onion
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 flatbreads or 4–6 cups mixed greens
1 teaspoon fresh mint, minced
Prepare the beets for roasting by washing and trimming them to leave 1/2 inch of the stem and root. Wrap with the unpeeled garlic cloves in a foil packet and set on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 425°F for 45–60 minutes, until they’re easily pierced with a fork but not mushy. Remove the vegetables from the oven as they finish cooking. Cut off the tops and bottoms of the beets, rub or peel to remove the skin, and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Add to a shallow bowl or container.
Squeeze the garlic into a small bowl or glass measuring cup, and mash it with a fork. Add the olive oil, vinegar, juice, onion, salt, and pepper, whisking to combine. Pour 3 tablespoons of the marinade over the beets, tossing gently to coat; reserve the remaining marinade. Let the vegetables sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to several hours.
To serve, drizzle the remaining marinade to taste over the flatbreads or greens, tossing the greens and brushing the flatbread to coat. Divide among 4 plates, arrange the beets on top, and sprinkle with fresh mint. Serves 4.
Tips & Tricks
- If you have roasted or smoked beets left after making sandwiches and Quick-Pickled Beet Snacks, you can simply roast the garlic separately.
- You can use a mix of golden and red beets for an even prettier dish, but you’ll want to segregate them to prevent color bleed. Wrap each color, with half of the unpeeled garlic cloves, in a separate foil packet. Plunge in succession, from lighter to darker, in the ice water, and avoid overlap when arranging on the flatbreads or salads.
- If you want more variety or to serve a larger group, asparagus is an easy addition. Toss the stalks with a little olive oil, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet, and add them to the oven beside or below the beets for the last 15 minutes of roasting time, removing them when they are tender but not charred. As with the golden beets, you’ll want to keep the asparagus separate from the red beets to prevent discoloration.
Want to play with more variations? Twice as Tasty is teaching these techniques in a workshop held in your own kitchen, among friends—and with my personal help. Click here to learn more.
Tried & True
These tools and supplies may help you make the recipes in this post:
- I love my mandoline: It makes quick work of pounds of produce for pickling, and it’s the easiest way to get the superthin slices I prefer for many quick pickles. I’ve owned a couple over the years, but this one has held up the best. It’s only downside is the all-Japanese instructions, but the pictorial is fairly self-explanatory.
- You may be scared by a mandoline—and rightly so. These incredibly sharp tools can slice fingers as readily as vegetables. Get a protective glove, like this one, to keep your digits safe.
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