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Pickle This!

Harvest season is here, get the jars out and preserve something special.

Even though we live in the berry bowl of the U.S., fresh fruits and veggies can get sparse in the winter. Canning is a great way to preserve the the bounty of the fields, and pickling is an especially tasty treat.

Whether with home-grown or market-fresh vegetables, pickled foods make delicious edibles that can be brought out any time of year. Pickling isn’t just for cucumbers either. There are many different recipes for pickling everything from radishes to zuccini—if you have a garden, those should be coming out of your ears right about now. In fact, it’s too much to cover here, but we’re going to give you some inspiration to get you past any fears you may have if you happen to be a beginner behind a pickling jar.

To create a delicious jar of pickled vegetables of any kind, you will need to include these basic elements:

  1. Vegetables should be carefully selected, washed and of similar size.
  2. Salt: the best kind for pickling is canning or pickling salt.
  3. Vinegar is the crucial ingredient in pickling quickly. For those who desire less tartness, add sugar to the batch, but don’t reduce the vinegar.
  4. Flavoring: fresh, whole spices are best. Dill, garlic or sugar are common pickle flavorings
  5. Water: soft water is best for pickling.
  6. Firming Ingredients: may include (food grade) lime, calcium chloride or alum.

Either purchase jars made for food storage, or recycle carefully cleaned containers previously used for food storage. 

Beets are a delicious and nutritious pickle-able vegetable that isn’t always a first choice, but could quickly become one if considered more carefully. Here is a recipe for Pickled Beets that will work with everything from dark ruby to baby gold beets: 

  • 8 pounds of beets cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 4 cups of vinegar (any vinegar with 5% acidity)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 cups of soft water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves

Cook cleaned beets until tender. Drain. Cool. Peel skin off. Cut into equal sized slices. Combine ingredients, using a mesh cloth for the cinnamon and cloves (to be removed later). Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove the spices. Fill jars with mixture with ½ inch of room at the top of each jar.

Another fun pickled food is fungi. Follow this recipe for a delicious side dish of marinated mushrooms:

  • 8 pounds of whole mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup of strained lemon juice
  • 2 cups of olive oil
  • 3 cups of white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp pickling salt
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 20 black peppercorns

Trim stems of mushrooms down to ¼ inch. Boil in lemon juice, and water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drain. Mix olive oil, vinegar and seasonings in pan and heat. In each jar, place ½ clove garlic, mushrooms and hot oil and vinegar mixture. Leave half an inch at the top of each jar. 

Experiment with your favorite foods during harvest season to create tasty pickled treats for the months of hibernation to come. They also make wonderful holiday gifts!

Visit your local farmers market to purchase fresh vegetables for pickling pleasure:

  • , at Peck and Main, Fridays, 3-7 p.m.
  • Santa Cruz, downtown on Wednesdays, 2:30-6:30 p.m.
  • Live Oak, at 15th and East Cliff, Sundays, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
  • Scotts Valley, at the end of Kings Village Dr., Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

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