Don't let the idea of making pickles put you in one.
You don't need special equipment, fancy salt or to stand over a vat of jars boiling in hot water. Instead, use the quick-pickle method to put up small batches of fresh fall vegetables to have on hand and share as gifts.The simple process makes great use of our local fall vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, beets, rutabagas and turnips. Mix and match according to your tastes — and what's fresh.
All you need to do is prep the vegetables, put them into clean jars, cover with a salty-vinegary brine and allow them to absorb the flavors of spices while in the fridge. Because vinegar is the primary ingredient, choose a couple of good ones — rice wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar. I avoid red wine, balsamic and sherry vinegar as the color is too dark. Spice the pickles with garlic, dill, whole peppercorns,whole coriander, fennel seeds, cardamom pods or cinnamon sticks. You don't need much; just choose a few that suit your fancy.
For best results, use fresh vegetables in season now. Cut them into same-sized pieces so they absorb all the flavors and cure at the same time. You don't even need to blanch the vegetables in advance. The hot brine softens them to slightly crunchy perfection as they cool down in the jars. Once they've cooled, store them in the refrigerator in a covered container for about a month; the flavors will become more pronounced over time.
As the temperatures cool and we move into autumn, our appetites turn to comforting stews and soups and roasts with flavors mellow and deep. These pickles make a lively accompaniment, adding color and zing.
Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Romanesco
Makes about 1 pint.
Note: Use this simple method for any crisp fall vegetable — carrots, broccoli, turnips, etc.Here, Romanesco adds a pretty touch of green to the mix. This will keep for up to a month in a covered jar in the refrigerator. From Beth Dooley.
• 2 c. cauliflower and Romanesco florets (about 1 1/2 lb. total)
• 1 small dried red chile pepper
• 1 tsp. cumin seeds
• 1 tsp. cardamom pods
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 tsp. black peppercorns
• 1/2 c. rice wine vinegar
• 2 tbsp. honey
• 1 c. water
• 2 tsp. coarse sea salt
Place the cauliflower, Romanesco, chile pepper, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and peppercorns into a large-mouth, pint-sized jar or a glass dish with a cover.
In a small pot, stir together the vinegar, honey, water and salt and set over medium heat and stir until the salt is dissolved. Pour over the vegetables and spices. Cover and allow to cool before storing in the refrigerator. Let the jar sit in the refrigerator for at least a day before using so the flavors have a chance to meld, shaking the jar from time to time.
Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.