The craving for a pickle is a powerful thing. Sometimes a late-night hunger pang hits, demanding a garlicky dill, or a burger just feels incomplete without the crunch of a few bread-and-butter rounds. While a store-bought jar often answers the call, homemade pickles -- which can be made from not only cucumbers but onions, carrots, beans, and other garden vegetables -- are undeniably superior. But the prospect of canning bushels of them for storage (and all the careful sterilizing and processing involved), then waiting weeks while flavors mature, stops many cooks before they begin.
Happily, there is a simpler way: Make refrigerator pickles like Dill-Pickle Chips and Pickled Zucchini Ribbons, which don't require canning. You can start eating them in about a week -- and they'll keep for several more. Choose firm, unblemished vegetables from the garden or farmers' market, and bathe them in a brine made with the freshest herbs and spices available. Then keep these snacks in the refrigerator to munch on whenever the mood strikes.
These ingredients are commonly found in pickle recipes. Each one is rather assertive -- strong enough to stand up to the acid in the pickling brine and penetrate the vegetables with its unique flavor. For best results, always follow proportions called for in the recipes.
1. Dry mustard
2. Dill seed and garlic cloves
3. From left: cumin seeds, celery seed (in bowl), and mustard seed
4. Whole black peppercorns
6. Coriander seeds
7. Clockwise from top: lemon peel, cinnamon stick, dried chile, bay leaf, cloves, dried chile flakes, and whole allspice