something out of nothing: fresh little pickles

photo by kimberley hasselbrink of the year in food

because i am insanely lazy and have serious acid-mouth, this is one of my favorite ways to make quick pickles.  i first learned this method a few years ago from sam greenwood, the queen of exquisite-yet-challenging catering projects, and have adapted it to my needs.  if you've ever been to tartine afterhours, you've probably experienced the fresh carrot pickles we make, leaving the greens on when possible.  it's a sort of trompe l'œil situation, with carrots that look raw but are pleasantly pickley.  kind of awesome.

my favorite veggies to prepare in this way are various colors of riverdog farm carrots, zucchini slices, cauliflower florets, jalapeños, radishes and green beans, but honestly, any vegetable that can be served raw would work great.  let me warn you that green things tend to turn grey or brown in acid, which is why when we make the carrot pickles with their greens left on, we tie them in bunches and suspend the carrots into the brine without submerging the tops.

fresh little pickles

  • some veggies to pickle, cut into one or two bite-sized pieces, trimmed, and/or peeled when applicable
  • vinegar--i typically use red or white wine vinegar, but rice wine vinegar could work, too
  • ice, or cold water
  • salt
  • sugar
  • aromatics--i like peperoncini, cumin and bay leaf, but black peppercorns, coriander seed, garlic cloves, turmeric, dill seed or anything else you like in your pickles would be good, too.

prepare your vegetables, then submerge them in a brine consisting of roughly two parts vinegar and one part ice.  if you don't have ice, use cold water.

add bountiful salt and a little bit of sugar, then stir to dissolve.

add aromatics.

stir.  taste.  adjust.

it should be saltier and vinegary-er than you think it should be, since the vegetables aren't getting cooked, and frankly won't be in the brine for very long.  the more intense the flavor of the brine, the better it'll penetrate the vegetables.  your lips should pucker with acid-mouth when you taste the brine, and you should be pleasantly aware of the salt and the sugar, too.

stir, make sure the vegetables are submerged, and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  two hours is ideal.

when you're ready to serve, remove veggies from brine and plate them up.  save the brine for another round, or keep leftover pickles in the brine.  both pickles and brine will stay good (and in fact improve) in the fridge for up to a month, though if you sense a funk or mold, then by all means, discard!

serve these pickles along side sandwiches, cured meats, bites of fried things, or on their own.  they are so refreshing and really, really lovely when served cold on a hot summer evening.


  1. I'm the founder/moderator for Punk Domestics (www.punkdomestics.com), a community site for those of use obsessed with, er, interested in DIY food. It's sort of like Tastespotting, but specific to the niche. I'd love for you to submit this to the site. Good stuff!

    1. Hi Sean,
      Let me know how to do it and I will!

  2. Yum- I'm making some tomorrow - thanks for breaking it down!