I haven’t been to the grocery store in weeks. I mean it. Not because I haven’t been eating (pfffff) and not because I haven’t been eating well…but because I’ve been living off our local land. Literally. And it has changed everything.
Saturdays this summer have looked a bit like this: wake up, enjoy coffee + breakfast, get dressed and get to the market when it opens. Wander the stalls, fill my shoulder bag to the brim – I mean, really, until I literally can’t tote any more – then hustle home to photograph it all, for visual proof of just what an amazing bounty we have here in Boulder, then I start daydreaming up recipes and plans for all those beautiful fruits and veggies.
So the refrigerator has been packed with perfect perky carrots, and all varieties of greens. Bowls of fresh berries, stone fruits, melons and cucumbers rest on every surface of the kitchen and dining room. It’s been some sort of luxury to have so much beautiful, flavorful produce on hand that I needn’t really plan menus — just peek into the fridge and concoct as my little heart desires. When we need some meat, milk, kefir (or, here in Colorado, avocados and bananas) I’ve been ordering up from Instacart. (Life changing. But now I digress.) But even with Sunday dinner guests, lots of fresh raw vegetable-centric meals and a running production list of homemade sauces and condiments, it has been a challenge to use it all. And that’s when I started making quick pickles, like REALLY making quick pickles.
I started quick pickling just as a means to an end; to preserve those lovely beets, cucumbers, turnips and carrots so they don’t go to waste if I can’t get them into my mouth fast enough. But then, I fell in love with the flavor and texture – adding them to salads, toasts, grain bowls and other dishes adds a little something that’s hard to get from anything that isn’t a sweet, spicy, crunchy pickle. But the reason to make them actually goes beyond your wallet and your tastebuds.
In the past weeks I’ve started reading a bit more about macro- and micronutrients, and dipping a toe into food-as-medicine concepts (not just food as fuel concepts.) It’s all really interesting stuff that I’ll share with you soon, but for now, know that quick pickles are a fermented food, and full of enzymes and probiotics that nurture and heal the gut, and improve digestion and nutrient absorption (which helps to boost your mood and brain function,) and help protect your entire system from dis-ease. And, they’re f*cking delicious. We’ve even started batching them at the Rapha Clubhouse here in Boulder; quick-pickled carrots are on the avocado toast and in the rice bowls.
So, things to know here: Unlike the pickling that your grandmother used to do, these quick pickles won’t take months before they’re ready to enjoy – you can quick pickle and consume in the same day. Also, unlike Granny’s pickles, these pickles won’t sit forever on a pantry shelf and instead are meant to be consumed within a couple of days or weeks and are meant to be stored in the fridge. I quick pickle a couple of bunches of beets and a big handful of carrots about every two to three weeks. This recipe calls for a nice little host of spices – all of which are great to have on hand for other purposes, I promise.If there’s a spice or two in this recipe you don’t have, don’t worry – proceed without it. Once you get the hang of the technique and build quick pickling into your own kitchen practices, you’ll be picking spices all your own to flavor the pickles. For an added boost of flavor, toast the spices then grind them and add them to the jars!
Really, you could use any kind of vegetable or fruit here, but beets and carrots are my favorite and so that’s what I suggest you start with. You can use any kind of beets in this recipe, but I do recommend using a smaller variety of carrot. Mokum carrots are dainty and cute, look beautiful on the plate and are short enough to fit in quart jars without making too many cuts. This recipe also calls for a nice little host of spices – all of which are great to have on hand for other purposes, I promise.If there’s a spice or two in this recipe you don’t have, don’t worry – proceed without it. Once you get the hang of the technique and build quick pickling into your own kitchen practices, you’ll be picking spices all your own to flavor the pickles. For an added boost of flavor, toast the spices then grind them and add them to the jars!
Lastly, you don’t need any fancy equipment to quick pickle, just some airtight jars. And you don’t need to have any special knowledge or technique to nail this one, but I do encourage you to cut your beets and carrots into shapes that will serve the greatest purposes for you. I like small little skinny chunks of beets, and halved little carrots.
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 bunch fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 small dried chilis
- 4 teaspoons turbinado sugar or maple syrup
- 3 lbs little beets and/or carrots (I recommend a small variety, such as Mokum)
- 1.5 quarts rice vinegar
- filtered hot water
- 2 quart jars with airtight lids (I like Weck Jars here!)
- First, divide the spices, garlic cloves, fresh dill and chilis between the quart jars.
- Next, bring a small, 2-quart pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, chop your beets and/or carrots.
- I like to use small little beets, to cut them into quarters and then to chop each quarter into 4 little chunky slivers. For the carrots, I like to slice them in half, lenghtwise. Divide the beets and/or carrots between the two jars. Don't be afraid to pack them in there!
- Next, divide the rice vinegar between the jars, filling each jar roughly 3/4 of the way full with vinegar (you may have some leftover.) Drizzle a tablespoon of maple syrup (or sprinkle the sugar) into each jar, then top with the hot water (making sure to leave enough space to seal the lid securely.)
- Seal the jars, give each a little shake, then allow to cool completely on your countertop. (The pickles will be ready to eat before the jars are cool, so dig in! But I recommend waiting if you can.) Once completely cool, transfer to the refrigerator and store for up to two weeks (if you don't eat them all up first!)