Pickling has infinite scope for variation based on personal preference. If you prefer your pickles sweeter, add more sugar. Milder, add more water. Increase, reduce or eliminate entirely the salt content of the brine if you wish.
Spices and herbs can be tailored to whatever it is that you’re pickling. If you like aniseed-y flavours (I can’t stand them), they infuse really well into the pickling liquor. You can use fennel seeds or star anise to pickle fennel or onions which will then go great with pork.
Radishes will stain pickling liquor a striking shade of hot pink, and any cucumbers in
that liquor will take on a more delicate shade. If you’re not keen on this for
presentation, keep radishes and cucumbers separate. If you’re only about the eating of
them, don’t worry about it. If you actively seek a vivid pinky/purple colour, add a few
slices of beetroot.
You can use regular cucumbers for pickling but there are varieties of pickling cucumbers
available (I usually find them at Indian grocery stores) and they are exceptionally good.
Thicker cuts of vegetables take longer to pickle and have firmer mouthfeel. Play around to
get the size/shape you like best.
You can get a couple of uses out of a batch of pickle liqueur. You may need to top it up
with more vinegar, sugar or salt – the water inside the previous batch of veg will have
diluted it. Boil it and allow to cool to repasteurise it. As in all things, use your best
judgement – throw it away if it doesn’t smell or taste nice.
A short list of things I’ve heard of or tried pickling: courgettes, pears, chillies,
apples, watermelon rind, kholrabi, cabbage, celeriac, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots. It’s
well worth trying things out, even unusual ideas
If you want to store pickles at room temperature, official advice is that they need to be
sterilised and then kept sealed to prevent recontamination. It’s possible that the acidity
alone will prevent bacterial growth, and I’ve heard ph 4.2 or below cited as a target.
However, I don’t have the ability to measure ph, and I prefer my pickles chilled anyway,
so I keep them in the fridge.
You may find yourself with quite a bit of leftover brine once you’ve eaten all the
pickles. Here’s a great way to use it up:
- 25ml Bourbon
- 20ml Pickle juice
Pour the bourbon into one shot glass and the pickle juice into another. Drink the bourbon, then drink the pickle juice. The pickle juice will cleanse the palate and leave you ready for another bourbon. Repeat as necessary.