Make Quick Pickles Even Quicker by Massaging Your Veggies

Quick pickles are the MVP of no-stove-required summer side dishes. Despite the name, some versions need to soak for an hour or two before they’re ready to eat. If you need a bright, crunchy vegetable side and you need it now, you can get things started with a little massage.

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Pickled vegetables usually need to marinate for hours—if not days or even weeks—to develop the flavor and texture you’re looking for. This is because the brine has to partially break down fibers, draw out some of the water content, and generally just soak into the veg, all of which takes time. But if you start out the pickling process by cheating the fiber breakdown a bit, the brine absorbs much faster—so your pickles are ready in just a few minutes. They won’t taste exactly like a well-aged lactic acid pickle, but they will be totally delicious.

It’s as easy as it sounds: Cut your veg into the desired shape, sprinkle with a big pinch of salt and/or sugar, then get in there and give ‘em a good squeeze. This step is more about breaking down the fibers in the vegetables than thoroughly seasoning them, so don’t go ham on the salt just yet. Once the veg has deflated and given off some liquid, taste for seasoning and add more salt and/or sugar until the balance is just right. Finally, stir in your vinegar of choice, tasting as you go. That’s it. Refrigerate the pickles for half an hour or so if you want them super-cold, but the beauty of this technique is you don’t have to wait around for the veg to absorb the seasonings: the massage does most of that work for you.

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The ultra-quick pickle is my favorite way to use up random scraps of vegetables that may or may not be past their prime. I’ve used this technique on just about every vegetable you can think of: carrot and daikon sticks, shaved red onions, shredded cabbage, julienned beets, sliced serrano peppers, and even chubby coins of zucchini. Whether I’m making a mountain of salad or a tiny jar of pickles for sandwiches, it never fails to produce something that tastes like it took way more than five minutes to make.

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