Refrigerator Pickles

I don’t advocate small-batch canning, but I am a fan of quick and easy pickling that fills your refrigerator one jar at a time. If your only experience with pickling is opening a store-bought jar, then refrigerator vinegar pickles will convert you to homemade. Even if you grew up in a household that put up shelves of pickled vegetables every summer, like I did, refrigerator pickles have surprising benefits.

The disadvantage of refrigerator pickles—that they aren’t sealed in heated jars and thus shelf stable—can be an advantage in freshness and crispness. Small-space gardeners or CSA members can put up a jar at a time as produce ripens. Even expansive gardeners can use fridge pickles to test new flavor combinations. Cucumbers are ideal refrigerator pickles, because they soften so quickly when heated. You should still only use pickling cucumbers; the thick-skinned slicing cucumbers you find in grocery stores and even lemon cucumbers are really only useful as fresh pickles. After years of pasteurizing summer squash, I’ve switched from the canner to the fridge to keep the pickles’ crunch.
Learn to make Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles and Cumin-Spiced Zucchini Refrigerator Pickles

Fresh Pickles

When I think of fresh pickles, I immediately envision a platter of sushi, accompanied by pickled ginger (gari) and preceded by a quickly pickled cucumber salad (kyuri asazuke). The Japanese know a thing or two about pickling. They find a range of uses for pickled foods, including condiment, relish, garnish, palate cleanser, and digestive aid. Small portions of these foods can appear at any meal, even breakfast. Traditional Japanese pickles feature ingredients ranging from vegetables to eggs to fish to even cherry blossoms.

In America, the primary exposure to Japanese pickles comes as an appetizer before a meal and as a palate cleanser during it. A favorite local sushi restaurant serves sunomono, small portions of freshly pickled cucumber salad, before every meal—so of course I needed to come up with a version for our home-rolled, and more importantly boat-rolled, sushi nights. This salad is best made fresh when cucumbers are in season. Learn to make Quick Pickled Cucumber Salad and Pickled Ginger

Pick a Pickle

Almost every vegetable garden explodes in July. My first July harvest included the last of the spring greens and asparagus, midcycle broccoli and garlic scapes, and the first snap peas, carrots, beets, and bulb onions. The harvest will go straight into our mouths, but as the yields grow jugs of vinegar and a box of salt will be front and center, ready for pickling.

All of my recently harvested vegetables can be pickled, along with snap beans, summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, garlic, cabbage, and even fruit. That’s the beauty of pickling: it lets you preserve any low-acid vegetable safely. And like many of my favorite processing techniques, it’s endlessly variable. Various pickling techniques let you preserve everything from a single cucumber to a box of cukes. You can flavor them to fit any meal: American dills or bread-and-butters with burgers, Japanese kyuri asazuke with sushi, Indian kheer uragai with curry—and that’s just a few variations on cucumber pickles.
Read more about quick and easy pickling

Any-Fruit Jam

Sweetness defines jams—and sometimes overpowers them. To my mind, a jam that leaves a lingering coat of sugar on your tongue misses the point: savor the fruits of summer. Making fruit-forward jam is simple once you understand a bit of the science behind it.

Fruit needs three things to set, or thicken, a spreadable consistency: acid, sugar, and pectin. Think of the molecular interactions in fruit like a high-school romance: Pectin molecules are attracted to water, but water is attracted to sugar. If water and sugar “hook up,” the pectin molecules will bond—with a little encouragement from their best friend, acid—and the jam will thicken.

The traditional method of encouraging this interaction is to throw enough sugar into the batch to distract all the water molecules. But more sugar is not the only option. An acidic pectin, like one based on citrus fruits, is an effective matchmaker for pectin molecules. Another method to encourage pectin couplings is to reduce the pool of available water molecules.
Learn to make Any-Fruit Jam without Added Pectin and Any-Fruit Jam with Added Pectin