Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pickle me this

Something about the warmer weather, makes me feel like getting an engine to work, after a while in storage. There may be a few false-starts to begin with, and it may struggle to turn over, but once the pistons get revving, it's time to go!

My food is no different. As the weather starts to warm, the bacteria in food requires a serious look at safe food preservation. There are many ways to go about this, but one of my favourite ways, happens to be the easiest too. It's called pickling.

This is EASY pickling, using equipment you already have at home.

 One litre/quart jar

I'm guilty of buying cucumbers, and a few weeks later, finding them rotting at the bottom of the crisper! So instead of that debarkle, I learned about pickling my cucumbers instead. They're just as delicious as the fresh ones, and keep for longer in the fridge too.

This recipe is not just for cucumbers either. I also use it to pickle fresh beets. Which are far superior to the floppy ones, you buy in a can. I just cook the beets whole, for 25-30 minutes - then cool in the pot, peel, slice and store in the pickle juice. Kept in the fridge, I get firm beets for far longer. Which is handy if you find a great bargain on beets, and don't want them to go floppy in a week.

Ready to go

Waiting for me to serve a salad, my pickled cucumbers and beets stay in the fridge. Next to that is my faithful sourdough starter, Griffin. Who has been getting a workout lately, baking vegemite and cheese scrolls, for the kids lunchboxes. What I love to see, is a fridge full of vibrant bacteria and nutrients, in my food. Not the mould spores variety!

There is no fancy equipment involved, no heavy canners for this pickling, and the recipe is flexible enough to change with the amount of produce you have to hand. This one-litre jar of cucumbers, that held two med-large fruit, meant I had to TRIPLE the original recipe, below:


Easy Pickle Juice:

1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves.

  1. Bring to the boil, on the stove
  2. Set aside until cool
  3. Remove bay leaves
  4. Pour over produce and store in the fridge

I've successfully stored these jars for months in the fridge. Just make sure you use a clean utensil, whenever you dip into the jar. Because if you introduce fats or meat to the juice, you'll compromise the acidity, and start growing mould on the surface.

Germinated from seed - a perennial vine

I'm attempting to grow some Mexican sour gerkins (Melothria scabra), this summer, and want to try pickling them. I'm told it's a prolific producer, even if the fruit is only tiny. Although it makes up for it, being hardy and disease resistant. Something we really need for our hot summers!

I'll let you know how it goes. To be continued...

PS: let me know if you've had any success, growing the Mexican Sour gerkin. Or if you love to pickle too!


  1. Mexican Sour gerkin we call cucamelons, I grew them for two years, but I never got the taste for them, loved the look. We have really cold weather now, so I'm looking at comfort food.

    1. You're absolutely right MJ. I recently heard them referred to as a cucamelon, because they look like a mini watermelon. But they're a cucumber. I can't wait until mine start fruiting. Perhaps a nice pumpkin soup is in order, for your kitchen. Soup and roasts, are our winter favourites. :)

  2. What a great idea. I've never made refrigerator pickles but yours sound super easy and that's always a recommendation for me.

    I've never tried the Mexican Sour Gerkins, but any time someone describes something as hard, heat tolerant, and disease resistant, my ears perk up! A number of years ago I tried Mexican Tatume squash and found they did better than the standard yellow squashes or zucchini. I went on to try other things but really should go back to them and would recommend for our kind of summers. They are a Cucurbita pepo also called Calabacita squash. The had less problems with vine borers and can be used as summer or winter squash. I don't know if you can get them or not, but I should grow them again next summer!

    1. Super easy Leigh, although you can jazz up your refrigerator pickles however you like. If my Tabasco peppers were fruiting, I'd have one in the jar too. But knowing the basic recipe, is a great place to start learning.

      Thanks for suggesting the Cucurbita Pepo squash. Reading up on it, suggests the leaves and seeds could be medicinal too. The leaves taken externally, for burns, and the seeds taken internally, for removing tapeworm. Very fascinating member of the squash family. Reputed to being a fast grower as well.

      My favourite squash that seems to be bulletproof here, is the Spaghetti squash. Just like vegetable noodles on the inside. Yum!

    2. I went looking for info on my spaghetti squash, and realised it was also called Cucurbita pepo. Then I realised the genus family is "Cucurbita" (pumpkins and squash) with the subspecies "pepo" (exclusively summer squash). So the Calabacita squash you mentioned and the Spaghetti squash, I mentioned, are both Cucurbita pepo varieties. Or summer squashes. It's funny what you can learn by accident sometimes, lol.

  3. Oh my son loves beetroot, but I have never tried to pickle it. How super simple. Do you sterilize the jars first?

    I too love how the warmth is such a motivating factor to get things done. No doubt you have a bunch of interesting things on the go!


    1. Your son will love you forever, if you make him these pickled beets, Emma! My Mum always asks if she can have these, whenever I'm serving a cold salad. I should try making her some for Christmas. They are like how pickled beets, use to taste like.

      No need to sterilise your jars Emma. Just clean them in warm, soapy water, rinse, then leave to dry (up-turned) on a dish rack. I cool my pickle juice before pouring into the jars, so there's no danger of cracking them. :)

    2. ahh good-o!

      Thats sounds just perfect! I may even do the same.


  4. A nice simple recipe, Chris, I will try it rather than my normal bread-and-butter cucumber pickle recipe. Only, I would use apple cider vinegar and raw sugar. Never thought of bay leaves and I have a healthy bay tree growing which I never use!

    I grew cucamelons one year. They need lots of space to climb and were like tiny cucumbers. I ate them fresh; they were crunchy, but as I remember, the skins were a bit thick and there wasn't much flavour. I've just looked through my seed bank and discovered I have a couple of unopened seed packets from 4 seasons seeds. There's no date on the packet, but I'll sow them and see if they come up. (just checked my seed bank database and it tells me I bought them in 2014, so maybe too old now. Will give it a go anyway; some may come up).

    1. Great substitutions, there Bev. Use what you have in the kitchen and does your tummy favours. I say though, you're fortunate to have a healthy bay tree. I just purchased one recently, because I use the dried leaves in my cooking, quite regularly. Great for flavouring soups, curries, casseroles and pickles. The only thing is, you have to remove them after cooking, or they turn bitter, if left at room temperature for long.

      Super curious to see if your seeds germinate. It depends on the seed, I guess. In my experience the fatter ones, like squash and pumpkin can keep for a few years. Smaller seeds like carrot and onion, really need to be used within the first year of collection. Will the 4 year-old cucamelon germinate? I'm dying to know!

    2. Hi Chris, just dropping in to let you know the cucamelon seeds germinated. Most of them by the look of it. They took 11 days. I sowed them just after I wrote the original comment to you.

    3. Oh wow. Awesome!! Nature is amazing. Thanks for the update.

  5. I am going to try this method Chris, so simple, even I can do it haha!

    I have beets and cucumbers growing in the garden, and I wonder if the pickle method would work for excess zucchini?


    1. Super-easy is the way to go, when you're busy. It should work with zucchini, but you want to cut them super thin - like with a mandonline. You may also want to add spices like tumeric, cumin, coriander and mustard seeds. Maybe also thinly sliced onion (and chilli, if you like it hot).

      Now of course, I'm going to have to try, quick pickled zucchini! It sounds so good.


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