So you panic-bought your produce and now that pound of asparagus that looked beautiful last week is starting to droop (based on a true story). What to do? The answer is QUICK PICKLES.
Almost any vegetable can be given the pickling treatment, which preserves it and adds a delicious tang. The pickle itself can be eaten as a side dish, snack, or incorporated into other recipes. All you need is a hardy, fibrous vegetable + vinegar + water + salt + sugar + optional spices & herbs.
Here’s the general method: Wash your produce well, peel as needed, trim any questionable looking bits off. Slice into manageable sticks or chunks and pack into a jar (or any sealable container, really). If you have any flavor add-ins like garlic you can layer them with your main veg. Create a 50:50 vinegar + water brine with 1 Tbsp salt and 1 tsp sugar per cup of liquid, bring this to a simmer and stir to get everything nice and dissolved. You should have enough liquid to cover all the veggies which are tightly packed into your container. Taste and adjust according to vegetable — stronger tasting vegetables can handle a higher vinegar: water ratio.
It will last at least a week in the fridge, and probably much longer — use your nose & good judgement. Here are some ideas to get you started:
asparagus + white wine vinegar + black peppercorn + garlic + coriander seeds
cabbage + carrot + onion + white or cider vinegar + bay leaf + oregano + jalapeño (inspired by Salvadorean curtido)
red onion + distilled white vinegar + allspice + thyme (fresh if you can, dried is fine)
cucumber sliced in thin rounds + rice wine vinegar + splash of soy sauce + sesame seeds (inspired by Japanese sunomono)
broccoli + rice wine vinegar + sesame oil + chili paste (or flakes) + garlic
mushrooms (cleaned and boiled for ~10 mins) + white wine vinegar + shallots + oregano + thyme + black peppercorns + olive oil
tomato + jalapeños + distilled white vinegar + scallions +garlic + cumin (seeds if possible) + peppercorns + olive oil
If you’re looking to take your vegetable processing to the next level, consider fermentation. Sauerkraut is a good place to start — all you need is cabbage, salt, and time!