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How to Make Quick Pickles

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Kenji proves that it's possible to make crowd-pleasing pickles no time.

Q: Can I make tasty pickles in less than a week?

A: Quick pickles are delicious. And easy: Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, water, and aromatics; boil and pour over veggies, covering them with a clean kitchen towel to keep them submerged. Chill for a few hours (overnight is even better), and presto—you're a bona fide pickler.

The key to a successful quick pickle lies in the ratio of four main ingredients: water, acid, sugar, and salt. I usually lean on these three basic ratios.

  • For supersharp, tangy pickles: 1 cup vinegar and about 1½ tablespoons salt. Heat this mixture with 1 bay leaf, 1 dozen pearl onions, 1 tablespoon each of whole black peppercorns and mustard seeds; pour it over tiny cucumbers, and you have French cornichons. Add whole garlic cloves, crushed red pepper, and dill seed for dilly beans or carrots.
  • For sweet pickles: 1 cup each vinegar, water, and sugar, plus 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Heat and pour over thinly sliced red onion and sliced jalapeño for a perfect taco garnish.
  • For all-purpose pickles: Equal parts water and vinegar, with salt to taste (about 1 tablespoon per cup works well), will give you bright, crunchy pickles to serve with sandwiches or at a cookout.

Keep your quick pickles refrigerated in airtight containers, and eat them within a couple of weeks. Somehow I don't think that'll be a problem.