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Pickling: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Written by Amy Snyder | September 14, 2007

On a recent trip to a Norfolk gas station, I encountered the infamous Kool-Aid pickle—we can refer to him as Tuco. This was a pickling experiment gone very wrong. Tuco, the grotesque and non-edible red pickle, would be more appropriate starring in a B-horror flick than sitting proudly on a counter.

After trying the Kool-Aid pickle, I needed to reassure myself that pickling can actually be good. My grandmother used to make the most amazing pickled garlic, so I decided to find her recipe and try it myself.

The result was crisp and spicy. I used a large dried chili, but if you can’t take the heat, use the smallest dried chili you can find. The garlic was perfect on salads, in wraps, and all by itself as an appetizer. An added perk to pickling is that it takes minimal effort to make and keeps for up to a year.

Your pickling ways don’t have to end with garlic and cucumbers. Try kimchi—the Korean staple usually made of cabbage—or giardiniera, the Italian topping often served on Chicago-style sandwiches. Or keep it simple and try pickled okra, ginger, or asparagus. I promise that none of these will look quite as scary as Tuco the Kool-Aid pickle.

Spicy Pickled Garlic
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 dried chili pepper
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
10 mixed peppercorns (black, pink, white)
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. pickling slat
1 cup fresh peeled garlic cloves

  • In a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, combine all the ingredients except the garlic. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and return to a boil. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
  • Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil again. Carefully transfer to a 1/2-pint jar. Let cool.
  • Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator. The garlic will be ready to eat in 5 days and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a year.

Makes 1 quart


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  • Corey says:

    You don’t have to use pickling salt it just keeps the final product from getting cloudy. The primary difference between it and table salt is it is free of iodine and anti-caking additives. The final pickled product will still taste great, it’ll just be darker in color. So if you don’t mind darker pickels, (which I dont’t!) then use the regular stuff.

    You can also use kosher salt. Being that it isn’t at dense as pickling salt, the proportions change a bit. Here’s a guide: 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. kosher salt = 1 cup pickling salt

  • Danny says:

    Pickling is a great way to thin out an overstock of some common veggies from the garden. Zucchini and other summer squash along with onions, peppers, and garlic are a tasty by themselves or as a combo.

  • sara says:

    Is the pickling salt by all means absolutely necessary because it is extraordinarily hard to find where I live 🙁

  • Heather says:

    I would just like to state that with chilies the smaller you go the hotter they are.