Quick Pickles and the End of Winter

March 8, 2013(updated on October 3, 2018)

quick cucumber pickles

Without really meaning to, I took most of this week off from showing up around these parts. The manuscript for my next book is due in just five weeks (yikes!) and it’s been hard to think of anything beyond those 100+ recipes and their accompanying headnotes and introductions.

I’m also floundering a little as far as preserving inspiration goes. It happens every year around this time, when the citrus begins to fade and there’s nothing bright and fresh and new to take its place (though I have heard tell that champagne mangos are arriving in markets. That’s exciting).

I did recently make the quick pickles pictured above. We had a hothouse cucumber that had gone soft on one end and so I trimmed away the squidgy parts and made a brine from unseasoned rice wine vinegar, some salt, red chili flakes, green onion and dehydrated garlic bits (embarrassingly, we were entirely out of fresh garlic the day I made these). They’ve been good eating and help me remember that more flavorful days are coming.

Are any of the rest of you suffering from some late winter blahs? How are you dealing with them?

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39 thoughts on "Quick Pickles and the End of Winter"

  • I’m still doling out the last few jars and frozen packets, but here in OR spring is just around the curve (still rain, but the Farmers Market season is fast approaching). To slake my hunger for food prep, I’ve been replenishing my supply of homemade chicken stock, and dabbling in sourdough bread. Peas in the garden are sprouting, and lots of new starts in the big kitchen window are working their springtime magic; I know that growing, and then canning, season is swiftly arriving 🙂

  • I am dehydrating everything in sight. My refrigerator and freezer are bulging with things I have to peel, chop, dehydrate, and package! I want to have a month’s supply of meals in a jar tucked away before hurricane season arrives! I will be pressure canning the meat dishes, so lots of aromatic vapors are in the air here. We are having a miserable cold snap here in Florida, so I’m glad to be indoors with my lovely warm dehydrator going full blast.

  • I always carefully portion out my frozen wild blueberries and raspberries trying to make them last until the following years season begins. When March rolls around I always end up diving into them because otherwise I would go crazy from lack of fresh food. They never last much past Easter.

  • I was inspired by your tip to beat the February grays with Meyer Lemons. Then I got sucked in by a display of blood oranges.

    I’m a little disappointed with the blood orange marmalade (your recipe). It took a long time to cook and is closer to brown than bright red. I guess I’d have to use pectin to speed the process and retain the color? It tastes great though, and my little jars are being readied to send out to friends and family. Even though we Oregonians think we have the grayest, dreariest winters, I’ve found that most people can use a little bright spot in their lives about now.

    Thanks for the inspriation. The Meyers were great fun and really added some ‘sweet and sunny’ to my winter blahs.

    1. Deb, I’m sorry to hear that you were disappointed by the blood orange marmalade. Which recipe did you follow (the one in the book, or the one on the blog)? I’ve never had it turn brown, though some of my batches have darkened into a deep purple hue. Did the oranges you started with have a lot of color?

      1. I used the recipe in the blog. Yes, the oranges had a lot of color inside. It’s really ok, and a first attempt at marmalade (and blood oranges and Meyer lemons). I think I want less zest, so I’ve made notes and will make another attempt next year. It was a fun way to beat the gray skies, and I have bunches of gifts to send out.

        I’m wanting to make some curd with the last of the blood oranges. I know USDA doesn’t reccommend it – they haven’t done any tests so they won’t say if it should be ok to can it. It should be pretty. Have you ever canned any curd besides lemon?

        1. I asked this of Marisa last year (?) and she said no to the canning. I made a blood orange curd and just kept in in the fridge. It didn’t last long. I couldn’t stop eating it! On a sad side note, the curd doesn’t come out a pretty rosy color as you might expect. Because of the yolks, it turns a lovely yellow ochre.

        2. Thanks for the replies. I know it is not approved by USDA or Extension. Often that’s only because they haven’t had the time, money, or desire to run all the tests. I wondered if anyone had had experience doing it them selves.

          I guess I will not make that much curd. Maybe I should just make a meringue pie – hubby might think he’s been good. ;>

        3. Thanks for the replies. I know it is not approved by USDA or Extension. Often that’s only because they haven’t had the time, money, or desire to run all the tests. I wondered if anyone had had experience doing it them selves.

          I guess I will not make that much curd. Maybe I should just make a meringue pie – hubby might think he’s been good. ;>

  • I’ve been seriously considering raiding my mother in law’s calemondin orange tree to preserve those little beauties. That tree produces nearly non-stop all year round (we live in Florida). Also, I’m really chomping at the bits to try my hand at making a couple of fig balls. We’re blessed with fig trees here, too.

    But, what’s been really drawing my attention lately is the no knead bread recipes that I’ve been finding all over the internet. So far, I’ve tried 2 different recipes. One came out beautifully, but the other didn’t look appetizing enough and no one in my family even wanted to touch it. So, it’s going out to the chickens….lol.

    These doldrums will pass for you and you’ll be able to churn out those last pages of your new book. I still have to purchase the one you’ve already done. I have one of Karen Solomon’s books and I liked it so much, I bought one for my mother in law. She’s made nearly everything in it, except for the marshmallows. And I know your book will be something she will totally enjoy.

    Thanks for sharing all that you do, it’s very much appreciated.


  • Just woke up here in SE Mass to another 4 inches of snow. Will spring ever come? I feel like I’m in the musical 7 Brides for 7 Brothers waiting for the snow to melt in the pass so I can go into town. We have had a miserable winter with way too much snow. Just when it melts and you think you can take a break, you have to get out the shovels again. This stuff is so heavy and moist I don’t even think the snow blower will take care of it.

    On a much happier note, I got your book for Christmas and was looking through it last night. Want to make SOMETHING in it so badly, but don’t know if we will lose power again. Would hate for that to happen in the middle of canning.

    How long will your homemade vanilla extract keep? My husband is a biologist/chemist and he is worried about bacteria starting in it. It’s say that it’s alcohol and nothing will grow in it, but what do I know? I want to make it because I use so much in my cooking and canning, and I am tired of spending so much money on a teensy bottle of the stuff.

    Enjoy the fact that spring is just around the corner, and thanks for sharing. Made your Meyer lemon marmalade and it is amazing. Added apples to one batch and now I don’t know which one I prefer although the apple lemon marmalade is so-o-o- good with horseradish cheddar cheese on a cracker.

    1. Patricia, the homemade vanilla extract lasts indefinitely. The alcohol prevents the growth of bacteria very effectively. If you’re concerned, you can use higher proof booze or grain alcohol!

    2. Patricia: I just moved to SE Mass! Know of any good farmer’s markets? I hear Marshfield is nice…

    3. I made Marisa’s vanilla extract in November of 2010 and still have the original fifth of vodka…I add more beans & alcohol when it gets low!

      1. I’ve had a bottle of vodka hanging around for forever (I don’t really drink. I used it to make banana liquer for a food swap). Why didn’t I think of making extract!?

  • We’ve been running the dehydrator like crazy lately. Our whole back 2 rows of the garden are full of green onions, so we just chop the tops and dry them. I want to start canning again, but between drying onions and kumquats, I’ve got enough to keep me busy a while.

  • Love your old ribbed canning jar! Those are hard to find in good condition these days! Hoping to get some pickles in the garden this year, so some practice on small easy batches will be super! Great for picnics! Thanks Marisa! 🙂

    1. That is one of the vintage freezer jars that the current 24 ounce jars were originally modeled on. It does have ribs. I bought a bunch of them on eBay about five years ago. Those old ones gotten much harder to find in recent days.

  • We’ve been buried under snow. Today is the first time I’ve seen the brown green grass of my front lawn. I am aching for canning season to arrive, but I know it’ll be here before I know it. I have been dehydrating potatoes, farmers were getting rid of them for $1.50 for a 25 lb. bag. We did make some chili pepper infused vodka to add to oriental soups for a spicy kick. Also my mother and I have been on the hunt for dark colored glass or ceramic jars with lids to make fermented japanese pickles in this summer. I have 10 more weeks until my last frost date so planning is my game right now.

  • I bought a ton of inexpensive Meyer Lemons. I did do the salt preserved recipe, but the rest are withering. I have no desire for lemon marmalade.

    I’m thinking of taking some of my dehydrated cuke slices and making some quick pickles that way.

    SOOO ready for spring. Today I start some seeds!

  • I’ve been fermenting cabbage and sprouting seeds in my sprouter for salads. I’m slowly making my way through a crisper of Meyer/Eureka lemons from my mother’s overabundant trees; yesterday, lemon curd–today preserved lemons. Here in Southern California winter never really is that cold, so I’ve loaded my raised bed full of lettuce, kale, and collards and got a blueberry bush to go with my blackberries. Can’t wait to harvest those berries this summer.

  • What’s this about a new book manuscript?? I bought ‘Food in Jars’ a few months ago and have loved it. What’s the theme of this new book and when do you think it will be on the shelves?

    1. Jason, I’m so happy to hear that you like “Food in Jars”! I’m currently working on a book that focuses on super small batches (for examples of these kinds of recipes, check out my Urban Preserving posts). The recipes with start with a pint, a pound (or 2) or a quart of produce and the yields are really small (no more than 3-4 half pints). My hope is that it’s really helpful for people who shop at farmers’ markets, get CSA shares, or have tiny backyard gardens. It is scheduled to be out in spring 2014.

  • I’m playing “Let’s pretend”. Last night I threw a burgers on the grill and we scoffed them down with fresh cut French fries and, the best part, full sour pickles I fermented with the last of the garden cucumbers last fall.

    Then I watched the snow fall… And shoveled a foot of it off the deck this morning.

  • I am contemplating making mustard again tonight, even though the last of the last batch is not quite gone. We still have 4 inches of snow and lots of lovely banks here in ND… I think a good roast in the crockpot and a couple of batches of dry mix for banana bread might be in order….

  • Up in VT, we’ve been eating down the contents of the freezer and our collection of pickles. The frozen greens & pestos help give a taste of the spring I’m itching for, and if my jars are empty, it means they’ll be ready to go when we do (eventually) get nifty things to put in them.

  • I’ve get the garden bug and I’m trying not to get going too early. It snowed twice here in New Hampshire this week. Today the sun is shining and all is well. To keep from going crazy I decided to make artisinal bread. Using Martha Stewart’s recipe for Artisinal Multigrain Boule I have been making this bread for the past 24 hours. Almost ready to put it in the oven. I wonder how many hands Martha used to make this as I could have used a couple of sous chefs just to read the instructions for me. Anyway …that’s how I ‘m keeping busy.

  • I’ve been keeping the winter blahs away by doing what gardening I can as the weather allows. I’ve been slowly turning the soil and it’s 2-4″ layer of last fall’s leaves over so I can add compost to the top layer to my raised bed. I planted some daffodils and tulips and am slowly trying to reclaim the backyard and garden from a winter of neglect. If I can’t have fresh fruits and veggies now at least I can do my best to prepare for them!

  • A Chinook recently got my hopes up.. melted all the snow, and was about 15C! only to be dashed two days later when we got a huge dump of snow. I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to Calgary winters, but, this is only my second.

    I’ve been making a batch of refrigerator pickles pretty much every week the past month; and hunting down some vintage jars here and there – either from Value Village, antique shops, or just off of good ol’ Kijiji. It’s a good thing they still make the 78mm “Gem” lid in Canada – I’m looking forward to canning with these jars!