How quick is the pickle?
April 20, 2020 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Our meal kits often include a "quick pickle" on a persian cucumber. How long is the minimum and maximum the cukes can sit in the liquid?

Sometimes they give white vinegar, but usually it is lime juice. They have us add salt and sometimes sugar. I don't eat pickles, but my husband does and I want to optimize the recipe. He likes them sweet, so I always add some sugar. Does 20 minutes really do anything to them flavorwise? What if we put them in a jar with the liquid the day we get them, but don't eat them until a week later?
posted by soelo to Food & Drink (7 answers total)
Bon Appetit suggests that quick pickles can be kept in the fridge for up to two months. In my experience, it's a matter of preference, as longer time spent pickling affects the texture of the vegetables. If you like them very crunchy, a shorter pickling time is better.

I haven't tried quick-pickling cucumbers, but for sliced pickled onions, 20 minutes makes a perceptible difference.
posted by Lexica at 10:57 AM on April 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

You don't mention the method you are using. When I want "quick pickles" - i.e. be ready for a meal in less than an hour -- I bring the vinegar to a simmer and then put the vegetables in. Then let them cool until you want to eat.

Once you quick pickle with hot vinegar, it's definitely good in the fridge for a few weeks as long as the liquid covers the vegetables. They never last long at our place though.
posted by amaire at 1:55 PM on April 20, 2020

Yes, and also specify how you're preparing the cuke - if they're spears or chunks, it'll take a bit longer than if they're thin slices. We don't quick pickle that much at my house, but when we do it's thin slices of either cucumber or daikon, and they're ready really quickly - I'd also say under an hour. We don't push it; basically we slice & steep those veggies first thing, then prepare the rest of dinner and by the time it's ready, they're ready. Then again we don't bother heating the vinegar, which might help move it along.

Personally I don't think quick pickles improve in the fridge beyond that initial souring period - that's why you're putting vinegar in, so it doesn't have to develop a culture and produce the acid slowly over days. I agree that they don't go BAD, though, as long as you leave them covered in vinegar or brine. However if you are willing to hold onto them for a week, consider trying your hand at brine pickling - the flavor is different from vinegar, and some people prefer it.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:03 PM on April 20, 2020

Response by poster: They are half moons, between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick and the liquid is room temp.
posted by soelo at 3:07 PM on April 20, 2020

Standard vinegar pickle recipes combine vinegar with water, salt, and seasonings (spices, sugar, etc) then use heat & time to allow the pickling liquid to penetrate and preserve the vegetables.

Quick pickles have little to no water. 20 mins will result in the acid penetrating just the very outside of the cucumber (the salt helps this process), however, the high acidity mimics the effects of the time/heat. The flavor of the acid is so strong, that after a short soak, it gives the impression that the cucumber is pickled. In reality, quick pickles are more a very sour salad, rather than a preserved vegetable.

If you take a quick pickle recipe that uses little to no water and store it in the fridge, it won’t go bad. This assumes, as noted above, the cucumbers are submerged in the liquid. The cucumbers will soften and the green color will dull, but that’s normal.

So at this point, it comes down to being a matter of taste. I’m not sure your husband will enjoy eating the pickles after a week when the cukes are saturated with straight vinegar or lime juice. His tooth enamel definitely won’t like it.

I would advise that the further in advance you make them, the more you will want to dilute the vinegar/lime juice with water (up to equal parts) and make sure the cucs are fully submerged.
posted by jenquat at 8:57 AM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I often make a sizable batch of quick-pickled cucumbers when we have big feast of a rich meal, as is traditional on the Polish side of my family, and we snack on the leftovers for at least a week or two. They hold up nicely in the fridge. (Thinly-sliced cukes with seeds removed, vinegar, water, salt, sugar, minced herbs, ground black pepper. No heat involved in preparation. Pretty sure this is a Polish-American thing more than a Poland-Polish thing.)

I also make a carrot vinegar pickle that holds up terrific in the fridge for a good month. (Vinegar, sugar, water, salt, thin-sliced onion, spices. Brought to a boil then poured over carrot spears, let cool, store in fridge. A riff on a Swedish-via-Minnesota recipe. I pickle sliced chiles with the same method for something very close to what I get at my favorite Mexican taqueria.)

Short answer: A week is totally fine.
Long answer: There are tons of super-duper-easy refrigerator pickles to keep your husband puckering in a heaven of sour things.
posted by desuetude at 2:49 PM on April 21, 2020

Here, quick-pickled cucumbers are traditional with a number of dishes. I usually make just about what we need while cooking the main, so the pickling time (for thin slices, as per tradition), is 15-30 minutes. I use 1 part vinegar to 1 part water, plus salt, sugar, whole pepper corns, and a bay leaf, then boil all of this for a while and pour the hot liquid over the sliced cuke.

If there are leftovers, they are mostly eaten the next day. If they aren't, I tend to throw the last ones away because they get too mushy. They don't go bad or taste bad, it's a texture thing.

For pickling with lime, I wouldn't heat up the pickling liquid. It still has a refrigerator life of a week or so, but again, I'd rather make more small fresh portions that keep a big one.

If you keep anything in the fridge, remember to always use a clean utensil when fishing food out of a jar.
posted by mumimor at 3:00 AM on April 26, 2020

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