For gardeners faced with a bounty of produce at the end of the summer growing season, pickling is a delicious way to preserve the fresh flavors and make use of extras. Rather than letting those leftover cucumbers, cabbages, green beans, and other veggies go to waste, you can easily turn them into pickled treats that will last for months. Pickling not only extends the shelf life of ripe fruits and veggies but also provides a burst of tangy flavor to enjoy when the snow is flying. Read on for an overview of simple pickle recipes, tips for canning and fermentation, and creative ways to use up and preserve your garden’s late-summer abundance.

Benefits of Pickling Garden Vegetables and Fruits 

Preserves Fresh Flavors and Nutrients

Unlike other preservation methods, pickling locks in most of the original crunchy texture and fresh flavors of garden produce. Fermentation even enhances certain nutrients and healthful probiotics. The vinegary brine penetrates the vegetable or fruit to help protect and preserve the bright, crisp taste it had when harvested fresh from your garden. You’ll be able to enjoy the distinct flavors of fruits and veggies like cucumbers, cabbage, onions, carrots, peppers, and green beans long after the growing season ends. Refrigerators and fermented pickles also retain more nutrients, like vitamins A, C, and K, compared to cooking or canning.

Extends Shelf Life

Pickling produce from your garden in a salty, acidic brine significantly prolongs its shelf life compared to fresh from the vine. Refrigerated quick pickles keep for 2–3 months. Properly canned pickled products are shelf-stable for a year or more. And items pickled using lacto fermentation can be safely stored for several months to over a year when packed in brine and kept refrigerated or frozen. Plus, pickling prevents food waste by salvaging those extra vegetables you couldn’t eat right away. Turning surplus tomatoes, stone fruits, peppers, and herbs into pickles allows you to keep enjoying their flavor long-term instead of having good food go to waste.

Provides Probiotics

Fermented pickle recipes like kimchi, curtido, and sauerkraut contain beneficial live cultures and probiotics. The “good bacteria” produced during lacto fermentation aid digestion and gut health. Eating just a small portion of fermented veggies daily helps to diversify and populate your microbiome with healthy microorganisms. The probiotics in fermented pickles also support immune function. So fermenting surplus garden vegetables provides a tasty way to promote probiotic levels for better overall wellbeing.

Getting Started with Pickling

Gather the Necessary Equipment and Ingredients

Before picking up your garden goodies, gather canning equipment, including Mason jars, new lids and rings, a large stock pot with lid, a jar lifter, a funnel, a bubble releaser, and a headspace measuring tool. You’ll also need cheesecloth, weights, or fermentation lids for low-sodium ferments. For ingredients, have on hand apple cider or distilled white vinegar, kosher salt or pickling salt, filtered water, and an assortment of pickling spice blends, whole spices like coriander seeds, peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, and common flavorings like garlic, dill, mustard seeds, cinnamon sticks, and chili peppers.

Select Prime Produce at Peak Ripeness

For the best flavor and texture, select prime fruits and vegetables at the peak of ripeness from your garden or a local farmer’s market. Produce picked fresh right before pickling tastes better than sitting in the fridge. Be sure vegetables and fruits are free of bruises, blemishes, or mushy spots. Cucumbers should be small, firm, and just starting to show tiny white spines. Submerge greens and herbs in cold water to perk them up before pickling.

Follow Safety Guidelines for Canning

When canning pickled products for shelf storage, carefully follow established guidelines from the USDA, or National Center for Home Food Preservation. Only use tested recipes and proper canning methods to ensure your pickled creations are safely preserved.

Easy Refrigerator Pickle Recipes

Quick Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles

For fast, crisp pickle spears, try this easy refrigerator pickle recipe. Thinly slice 4-5 small pickling cucumbers and 1/2 a sweet onion. Combine 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tbsp sugar, and 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Place the cucumber slices and onion in a quart-sized jar. Pour the brine mixture over the vegetables. Top with a few sprigs of fresh dill, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, 4 crushed garlic cloves, and a pinch of red pepper flakes if desired for extra spice. Cap the jar and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, gently shaking occasionally, before enjoying.

Spicy Dilly Bean Fridge Pickles

Preserve green beans at their crisp, tender best with this easy fridge pickle recipe. Wash and trim 1 lb. of fresh green beans, removing the stems and ends. Mix together 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup water, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 tsp dill seed or 1 tsp dried dill, and crushed red pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Pack green beans vertically into a clean quart jar, standing on end. Pour hot brine over the beans to cover. Use a bubble remover or spoon handle to release any trapped air pockets. Top with 2 grape leaves or a pinch of mustard powder to help keep the texture crisp. Seal tightly and refrigerate at least 3 days before eating for maximum flavor.

Pickled Garden Radishes

Turn radishes from spring or fall gardens into tangy quick pickles. Clean radishes thoroughly, trim off greens and stem ends, then quarter or slice. Pack into a pint jar and set aside. Bring 1⁄2 cup vinegar, 1⁄2 cup water, 1 tsp salt, and 1⁄2 tsp sugar to a boil. Pour the hot brine over the radishes to cover them. Seal and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving. For variety, add thinly sliced jalapeños, crushed garlic cloves, peppercorns, coriander seeds, or fennel to the brine or radishes. Enjoy these pickled radishes on salads, sandwiches, and antipasto platters.

Fermented Vegetable Recipes

Fermented Dill Pickles

For prebiotic-rich fermented pickles, try this easy lacto-fermented dill pickle recipe. Wash 4 lbs. of small pickling cucumbers. In a half-gallon jar, combine 2 tablespoons of kosher salt with 4 cups of water to make a brine. Pack cucumbers vertically into the jar and pour in brine to cover, leaving 2 inches of headspace. Add 3 cloves of peeled garlic, 1 tablespoon of dill seed, 1 teaspoon of mustard seed, and 1 grape leaf or piece of oak leaf. Top with a quart-sized zip-top bag filled with the remaining brine as a weight. Seal the jar and ferment at room temperature for 4–7 days until bubbles subside and the pickles taste tangy. Refrigerate for up to 9 months.

Kimchi with Napa Cabbage

Make your own gut-healthy Korean staple by fermenting napa cabbage. Thoroughly wash 1 head of napa cabbage and chop it into 1-2 inch pieces. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of salt and let sit for 1-2 hours to draw out moisture. Rinse the cabbage and drain well. Mix together 1/2 cup gochugaru (Korean chili powder), 3 thinly sliced scallions, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 minced inch of ginger, and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Toss cabbage with spices, tightly pack into a jar, and press down firmly to remove air pockets. Top it with a brine-filled zip-top bag. Ferment at room temperature for 3–10 days until desired sourness is reached. Refrigerate for up to 6 months.

Sauerkraut

Transform surplus cabbage from the garden into vitamin-rich sauerkraut. Thinly slice or finely shred 1 medium-head green or purple cabbage. Layer the cabbage with 2-3 tablespoons of kosher salt into a large sterile jar or fermenting crock, pressing and massaging the salt in with your hands. Continue layering and salting the cabbage, pressing out excess liquid, until the jar is nearly full. Top with a brine-filled bag or fermentation weights to keep the cabbage submerged. Ferment for 2-4 weeks at 65–75°F until it reaches your desired sour, tangy flavor. Refrigerate and enjoy for up to 6 months.

Creative Uses for Pickled Produce

Pickled Vegetable Salad Toppings

Brighten up salad greens by topping them with your homemade pickled vegetables. Quickly pickled radishes, onions, carrots, jalapenos, and asparagus spears make tangy, crunchy garnishes. Their bright colors and bold flavors take salads to the next level.

Pickled Fruit Desserts

Sweet pickled peaches, pears, apricots, and strawberries from the garden make unique dessert toppings. Layer them on tarts, cheesecake, ice cream, waffles, or pancakes for a delicious sweet-tart kick.

Pickled Vegetable Appetizers

Impress guests by serving pickled garden veggies as starters or small bites. Highlights include pickled okra, cauliflower florets, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, snap peas, and pickled asparagus paired with crackers, cheese, and cured meats.

Homemade Pickled Gifts

Share your garden’s bounty by gifting colorful jars of your homemade pickled fruits and veggies. Add a bow and recipe card for a one-of-a-kind present from the heart.

Pickling is a versatile way to preserve your garden’s bountiful harvest creatively. From quick refrigerator recipes to long-term fermented products, pickling captures fresh flavors and promotes food waste reduction. With a little preparation and creativity, you can turn surplus produce into a pantry full of pickled goodness.

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