Everyday Meals

How to Make Quick Pickled Cucumbers

I am a huge fan of pickled things. There are no fewer than 11 pickled foods in my fridge at this very moment, including but not limited to: cornichons, dill pickle spears, hamburger chips, pickled figs, pickled rhubarb, and cocktail onions. I make all sorts of pickles, from baby carrots pickled with honey and mustard seed, to grapes pickled with cinnamon and black pepper, to onions pickled with clove and juniper.

To be clear, these are all quick pickles. Quickles, if you will. Because I have neither the patience nor inclination to do the fermenting required for true pickles. And also because the one time I tried to make a batch of fermented pickles they were ghastly and inedible and I would never suggest you try it yourself.

Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated

Get the recipe: Quick Cucumber Pickles

Watch: How to Pickle

But quick pickles are fun and easy, and this recipe is one of my favorites. It is a cucumber pickle, in a sweet and sour pickling liquid.

While this recipe is a favorite of mine, there are many pickle recipes out there, so experiment till you find one you love. 

Here are some tips and tips for quick pickling cucumbers:

Pick your cuke

There are many varieties of cucumbers available, and the type you choose will affect your pickle, so be sure to choose wisely. True pickling cucumbers, often called Kirby cucumbers, are small, about 2-4 inches in length. They have a thicker skin that is variegated in green, yellow, and white, and few seeds. They have a sweet light flavor when raw. I would choose these whenever available, since they are built for pickling. But usually, unless you are growing your own or have access to a summer farmers’ market or farmstand, you are left with the cucumbers at the grocery store, which come in two varieties, regular and English or seedless. 

Regular cucumbers have a thick, bitter, dark green skin and a lot of seeds. These are best used when you want to make a pickle that is skinless with the seeds removed. This makes for a fun smiling U-shape to your pickle and is great if you are using on salads. 

If you want to use a cucumber with the skin on for color and texture, I go with English or seedless varieties, which have a thin skin that is not too bitter and has a pretty ribbed pattern, and few seeds. Seeds give off more water in your pickling liquid, which can water down the flavor as well. There are mini versions of this which are called either baby cucumbers or Persian cucumbers, and they are just smaller. I’m a fan of adorable food, so I sometimes use these because they make cute little rounds.

Prep your cuke

This is pretty basic. If you want a skinless pickle, peel it. If you want a seedless pickle, cut in half lengthwise and use a teaspoon to scrape the seeds out. If you are using skin-on, wash well. Remove both ends of the cucumber and make into whatever shape will work best with how you intend to use them. 

If you want to put them on flat sandwiches, long planks or thin rounds work best, but if you are wanting to use them on baguette or sub style sandwiches, you might want to go with little sticks or julienne. If you want to use them as an addition to salads, rounds, bias cuts or half-moons are lovely. You can also use a fork to scrape the skin or alternating peeled and unpeeled strips to make a pretty pattern. If you want to turn the pickled cucumbers into a salad on their own, thicker cuts or chunky cuts work well.

Soften the cukes

These pickles are not cooked or processed, so you do want to soften them a little bit so that they really absorb the flavor of the brine. To do this, place your prepped cucumbers in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and sugar, and massage gently for a few minutes until they begin to give up some liquid and get a bit pliable. You should be able to fold a slice or stick nearly in half without breaking.

Brine your cukes

Brines can be as simple as vinegar, water, and salt. They can include sugar, as this one does, and can have spices and herbs too. Onions of all types, from shallot to scallion to Vidalia, are great in this and add some punch. Be aware that using a red onion will make the whole thing pink. The water in the brine should be warm enough to dissolve any salt or sugar fully. For clean flavors, use white or rice wine vinegar. For more nuance, try an apple cider vinegar. I don’t use red wine vinegar in pickles because it is expensive and makes the pickles a little muddy looking.

Store your pickles

These pickles are not canned or processed, so you need to keep them in the fridge and plan on using them within a week. While they will be safe to eat for a couple of weeks, due to the high acid from the vinegar and the sugar content, after a week the texture of the pickles gets a bit soggy and they are less delicious. So, I only make as much as I know I will need for the week.

Don’t dump the brine!

Once your pickles are done you have two options with your brine. Bring it to a boil to make it freshly safe, and then pour it over your next batch of pickles, or use it as a substitute for vinegar in vinaigrettes, or to punch up sauces.

Get the recipe: Quick Cucumber Pickles

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