How to Avoid Food Waste: An Intro to Pickling

This post was written by Kate Davis, a V+B customer and avid cook and fan of all things fermented.

If you’re like me and fresh vegetables and fruits from the farmers market are so tempting that you end up with more radishes or cabbage than you can actually consume, or you bought them for a specific recipe and then felt too tired to cook, well pickles to the rescue! I love both a lacto-fermented sauerkraut or, if you have less time, a quick pickle with good quality vinegar.

Lacto-fermentation isn’t as bizarre as it sounds: it’s a simple fermentation process that involves just salt, vegetables, and water. If you’ve ever enjoyed a juicy, crunchy dill pickle, you can thank lacto-fermentation. It’s a process whereby the naturally occurring lactobacillus bacteria (the good guys that make your stomach happy) in vegetables help create fermented foods. Salt helps out by wiping out the bad bacteria first (they don’t like salt) so that lactobacillus can get to work giving kimchi, sauerkraut, or that dill pickle a deliciously funky flavor. It’s a simple process that I recommend going down the research rabbit hole on. Here are a few places to get started: (1) fermentation basics, (2) jams and preserved foods, (3) how to ferment vegetables. I like adding sauerkraut or kimchi to vegetable bibimbap, salads, or vegetables and rice. 

Another option is a quick pickle—think Salvadoran curtido or pickled carrots and cauliflower—where the vegetable is processed with vinegar and not fermented (note: this is not shelf stable so definitely keep it in the fridge!). My go-to is quick-pickled radishes or turnips. I add these to V+B cauliflower tacos, chickpea chilaquiles, and salads. See my recipe below. 

- ¾ pound of radishes (since radishes vary in size, weight is easier; this was about 30 small radishes)
- ¼ cup halved and sliced white or yellow onion
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1.5 tsp. sea salt
- ¾ tsp. coconut or granulated sugar
- spices like coriander, dill, pepper, caraway, etc.- 1-2 tsp as you want.

1. Slice radishes thinly, and put them in a 1 quart heat safe jar (or a few smaller jars), along with
onion and flavoring spices.
2. Add water, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally to combine,
until just simmering.
3. Carefully pour hot brine liquid over radish jar, and stir with a spoon to mix spices around.
4. Let cool on counter for 1 hour, before sealing with lid and storing in the fridge.
5. Give it at least a day for best flavor. Store in fridge for up to 2 months.

When you’re done eating the pickles, you can use the brine to start a new batch or for cooking. For example, I love adding leftover brine when I’m cooking mushrooms to add flavor. You could also use the leftover brine as mixers in micheladas, martinis, or bloody marys. (Be sure to strain out ingredients like peppercorns or herbs.) The brine could also be used as a marinade for chicken, fish (for a ceviche), or even as the base of a salad dressing. For more thoughts on how to reuse brine, look here.

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