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If you are staring at an excess of vegetables or fruit and wondering what to do with them, then it's time to discover pickling. It's easier than you may think and with these different pickling ideas, you'll have a range of delicious new ways to spice up your everyday meals.

The benefits of pickling

Quick pickling, also known as refrigerator pickling, is a hassle-free way to preserve any fruit or vegetable of which you have a surplus. Kept in the fridge, by pickling your produce, you can extend their shelf life from a few days to several weeks, even a couple of months. As well as avoiding food wastage, it saves you money and also provides you with a tasty ingredient to use in your cooking, to add a zing to your sandwiches or to enjoy as a flavourful side accompaniment1.

What can you pickle?

The short answer is pretty much any fruit or vegetable can be pickled. The fresher, crunchier varieties provide the best results, but other than ingredients like delicate leafy greens, this briny marinade works well with most fruit and vegetable products2.

Pickled vegetables

Old favourites, such as cucumbers, carrots, beans and cauliflowers, are great places to start if you are experimenting with pickling. Try adding peppers, chillies or spices to liven up your result. Ploughman's salads, plain tuna, ham or cheese sandwiches will all be brightened up with this tangy addition on the side.

If you fancy going more adventurous, these other vegetables make inviting pickles that can be used for a wide variety of purposes:

Peppers – For a colourful side dish, appetiser or even as a pizza topping, pickled peppers are a tasty treat to have in the fridge. Include a few varieties in your jar and experiment with additions, such as garlic, oregano or mint, to get the perfect balance that is pleasing to the eye and the taste buds3.

Aubergine - A surprising, yet delicious, nominee for a pickle is the aubergine. Include garlic and herbs, such as mint or basil, in the pickling liquor to create a tempting Mediterranean treat. Enjoy with some crusty bread, feta and olive oil.4.

Chillies - For those that enjoy a spicy kick, chillies are an excellent ingredient to pickle. The results can then be used in place of a chilli sauce to add to heat any of your home-cooked meals. Vary the flavour profile with the addition of fresh herbs or even a few cherry tomatoes5.

Pickled Fruit

Lemons – Citrus fruit is delicious when pickled. The harsh sourness is dampened, and the lemony flavour intensifies. Often found in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, preserved lemons can be used in stews, curries, cooked with meat or fish or used in salads. A wide variety of spices work well in the pickling process, from the sweet fragrance of vanilla and cinnamon to the heady, spicy notes of coriander seeds or cardamom6.

Mango – Pickled mango is sweet, yet tart and makes a delightful, tropical addition to salads, fish tacos and chicken sandwiches. However, arguably the best way to enjoy it is just straight out of the jar7.

Tomatoes – Pickled red tomatoes make the most wonderful replacement for ketchup, just perfect for BBQs, pizza or with a grilled cheese sandwich. Including fresh ginger with the fruits, adds a gorgeous zingy taste to the final result8.

Grapes – Another unlikely ingredient for pickling, pickled grapes have to be tried to be believed. When marinated in a syrupy vinegar, spiked with cinnamon and black pepper, pickled grapes are a sublime dessert accompaniment or sweet snack. Try spooning over ice-cream or Greek yoghurt or enjoying alongside a cheese course.9

Quick pickle tips

  • Pickling is about balancing sweet, sour and salty, so keep to the recipe proportions if making a larger batch10
  • Get playful. Experiment with combining the vegetables and fruits you have available, and adding herbs and spices that you enjoy. Taste your pickling liquids before canning and remember that flavours will intensify the longer they are kept
  • Take time to wash and prepare your vegetables, cutting them in ways to make them visually appealing
  • Use lighter vinegars. Balsamic or malt vinegars are too concentrated for pickling11
  • Quick pickles can be eaten a few hours after making, but for the best results, be patient and wait at least overnight

Last updated: 29 April 2020

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