How to Make Fresh Pickled Food

Pickles are so much more than cucumber spears! While we love cucumber pickles, there are many other types of pickled food including eggs and vegetables. Many of these pickled food recipes are popular around the world and are a great way to use you ingredients fresh from your garden.

In this guide, we’ll share some of our favorite tried and true pickled food recipes as well as tips on how to make your own pickled vegetables and other pickled foods and the best ingredients for making simple and salty pickled foods to store in your fridge.

Learn more about making your own food from scratch and other homesteading skills in our weekly newletter.


Pickling vs. Fermenting

You may have heard the two terms: pickled and fermented use interchangably, but these processes refer to something specific.

Pickling involves submerging vegetables in a brine solution made of vinegar, salt, and sometimes sugar, which helps preserve them and gives them a tangy flavor. This process is relatively quick, often taking just a few days, and results in crisp, brightly flavored vegetables. This type of pickled food is generally stored for a shorter time in the fridge.

On the other hand, fermentation relies on beneficial bacteria to transform sugars into lactic acid, creating a tangy and complex flavor profile over a longer period, typically ranging from a few days to several weeks. Fermentation doesn’t involve vinegar, and the vegetables are submerged in a saltwater solution. Fermented vegetables tend to have a deeper, more complex flavor with a characteristic tanginess, and they also offer probiotic benefits due to the presence of live cultures. There are other foods that can also be fermented such as milk.

In this article we are focused just on pickled food.

Pickled Food Recipes

Essential Tools and Ingredients

Pickling is generally an easy process and usually involves just a few ingredients and tools.

Common Pickling Ingredients:

  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Spices

To make your pickled foods, you will need to make the brine by first heating the vinegar in order to dissolve the sugar and salt. This is then poured our the food. To do this, you will need:

  • Saucepan
  • Spoon
  • Jar
  • Cutting Board and Knife
How to Make Fresh Pickled Food
How to Make Fresh Pickled Food: Pickled Eggs

Common Foods to Pickle

Cucumbers: Cucumbers are perhaps the most classic choice for pickling, known for their crisp texture and ability to absorb flavors well. We like to keep a jar of fridge cucumber pickles all summer long.

Carrots: Carrots add a sweet and earthy flavor to pickles and maintain a satisfying crunch after pickling. You can pickle the full carrots but our favorite way is to grate the carrots.

Cauliflower: Cauliflower florets make excellent pickles, absorbing the brine and spices for a flavorful and crunchy result. Their mild flavor make them a good choice for pickling.

Bell Peppers: Bell peppers add vibrant color and a sweet, tangy flavor to pickles, perfect for adding variety to your pickling repertoire.

Radishes: Radishes offer a peppery bite and vibrant color when pickled, adding a zesty kick to salads and sandwiches. We also like to pickle radishes and add them to burgers.

Green Beans: Pickled green beans, also known as dilly beans, retain their crunchiness and take on a delicious tangy flavor.

Jalapeños: Pickled jalapeños are a popular condiment, adding heat and acidity to dishes like tacos, nachos, and burgers.

Beets: Pickled beets are both visually stunning and delicious, with a sweet and tangy flavor that pairs well with salads and sandwiches. These are fun to make in the spring before many of the other crops aren’t ready yet.

Red Onions: Pickled red onions are a versatile condiment, adding a pop of color and tangy flavor to everything from tacos to salads.

Asparagus: Pickled asparagus spears offer a unique twist on traditional pickles, with a tender yet crunchy texture and a tangy flavor profile.

Garlic: Pickled garlic cloves develop a mellow and slightly sweet flavor when pickled, perfect for adding to antipasto platters or enjoying as a snack.

Eggs: Hard-boiled eggs can be pickled in a brine solution infused with spices, vinegar, and sometimes beets for color, resulting in tangy and flavorful snacks or salad toppings. These are fun to make during Easter and the spring.

Fruits: Fruits like watermelon rinds, strawberries, mangoes, and even citrus peels can be pickled to create sweet and tangy treats or unique additions to salads, cocktails, and cheese boards.

Fish: Herring, mackerel, and other oily fish are often pickled in a vinegar-based brine to create traditional delicacies like pickled herring or rollmops, popular in many European cuisines. Our family loves pickled herring, especially during the holidays.

The Pickling Process

While it’s best to find a specific recipe depending on the type of food you are pickling, most pickling recipe have similar ingredients and a similar process.

Start by making the brine. This is usually a simple combination of vinegar, water, salt and sometimes sugar. Heat the brine until the salt and sugar dissolves. Set this aside.

Prepare the food. Depending on the food you will want to chop, shred or even boil the ingredients.

Pour the brine over the food in a jar and store the food in the fridge for a few days.

History of Picking

Picking is a wonderful way to process food, but it is not a new process and dates all the way back to ancient mesopotamia. One of the earliest records of pickling dates was from about 2400 BCE. Many foods were pickled to preserve them for travel or to last over the winter. Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome also used pickling and expanded to other vegetables and fruits as well as meats, mushrooms, and fish.

In other parts of the world, pickling remained an important part of the cuisine and preserving process. In China, pickling dates back to 2000 BCE and continues to be popular way to enjoy foods.

Europe and Colonia America also used pickling for people looking to preserve their food.

Adding More Flavor

There are several ways to increase the flavor of pickled foods, by changing the prine or adjusting the flavor with herbs. Here are a few suggestions.

Techniques for enhancing flavor through infusion (herbs, garlic, chili, etc.): Infusing pickling brine with aromatic herbs like dill or thyme, pungent garlic cloves, or spicy chili peppers can impart complex layers of flavor to pickled vegetables, elevating their taste profiles and offering a customized culinary experience.

Adjusting the brine for personal taste preferences: Pickling enthusiasts can tailor the brine solution to their liking by adjusting the ratios of vinegar, salt, and sugar, allowing for a more pronounced tanginess, a saltier bite, or a sweeter finish, depending on individual flavor preferences.

Tips for achieving the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and sour flavors: Achieving the ideal flavor balance in pickles involves adjusting the proportions of the main ingredients, and making sure you have the right amount of sweetness from sugar and the appropriate level of salt.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get a FREE copy of the ebook: The Modern Homestead and access to our community exclusively for backyard gardeners and homesteaders.

Just straight up homesteading ideas sent directly to you.

Learn more about the Modern Homesteading Academy, a low cost series of ebooks and mini-courses.


This will close in 15 seconds