Two books have recently sparked a pickling frenzy in our house and has resulted in a pantry full of pickles. First I borrowed Preserves from the library on a whim, and was instantly drooling over the wonderful photographs, and making a mental list of all the goodies I was going to try to make. Then a friend lent me The Beginners Guide to Preserving Food at Home which is such a fantastic resource for a preserving newbie like myself. The book covers not only canning but also freezing, dehydrating, and root cellaring. It lists lots of different types of produce and describes the best methods of preserving for each, as well as recipes and general tips about preserving.
However before I found these great books, I tried a pickled carrot stick recipe from old faithful. The quick carrot sticks are delightful, but I've also tweaked this recipe for all of my pickling needs. Then I just follow the packing and processing guidelines from the books mentioned above.
I have generally been packing my veggies into the jars beforehand to see how much I'm going to make, then increase the batch of brine as needed.
Here is my adaptation of Smitten Kitchen's carrot stick brine:
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of sugar (or none at all)
2 garlic cloves gently crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons of dill seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon coriander seed
bunch of dill flower & fresh dill (optional)
Depending on what you're pickling you might want to dry brine the veggies first. I picked up this tip from my guilty pleasure and it will apparently keep them crunchier (I say "apparently" because I've tried with or without this step, and don't really notice a huge difference, but yet I keep doing it) .
To dry brine, toss the veggies in a hefty dose of salt in a colander. Let them sit there and drain for a while (30 mins or so) then rinse them well.
Bring all the above ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer.
For quick pack the veggies in jars, fill with hot brine and store in the fridge. They'll be ready to eat in a few days and will last for a few months.
For "real" pickles pack the veggies, and dill and dill flower (if using) in hot sterilized jars, and then pour the hot brine into the jars, seal in boiling water bath for 10 minutes and process. Store in dark, cool space, and refrigerate once opened.