If you’re fond of making food gifts for the holidays, chances are that you’ve already started baking or assembling tasty niblets like almond bark, cookies, fudge, and other tasty treats. Although most people have a soft spot for sweets on special occasions, there may be some family members and friends whose tastes lean towards salty, sour, and spicy rather than sugary—a perfect opportunity for you to do a little bit of weekend canning to make easy, tasty pickles from a variety of veggies. Below are some recipes that are sure to please any foodie on your list.
Before you get started, it’s important to review proper, safe canning procedures, and ensure that you have all the supplies that you’ll need: there’s nothing worse than starting a project only to discover halfway through it that you’re missing something vital. All of these recipes are for water bath canning: the acidity is high enough that you don’t need a pressure canner for them, so any deep stock pot that can keep water levels at an inch or two above the jar tops is fine. Although some people don’t bother to put their pickles through a water bath at all (they just let the hot vegetables and liquid create a natural vacuum seal in the jars), that’s really not a safe method at all. It’s okay if you plan to keep your pickles in the fridge and use them within a week, but if you plan to give these away as gifts, it’s better to err on the side of caution and give all your jars a nice, hot, bubbly bath.
Easy Pickled Onions
These are great in martinis and other savory drinks, as well in a variety of salads, egg dishes, and more.
2 1/4 pounds pickling onions or shallots, peeled
4 teaspoons of pickling spice
2 tablespoons of salt
4 1/2 cups malt or cider vinegar (use cider if you’re giving this to anyone who’s sensitive to gluten)
6 tablespoons of sugar
Peeling onions is tedious and fairly giddy work, so your best bet is to cut off the tops and tails of the onions, place them in a bowl, and douse them with boiling water. Once cool, the skins should just slide off when you prod at them a little bit. Pat the onions dry with some paper towels and set them aside while you’re prepping everything else.
Place the peeled onions in a large, clean bowl, and sprinkle them with the salt. Toss them around to coat them evenly, and let sit for 6-8 hours (it’s best to leave them overnight). Rinse them well with cold water and pat them dry.
In a large sauce pot, combine the vinegar with the salt, sugar, and pickling spice. Warm this on medium heat until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved, but don’t boil it.
Pack the onions into clean, hot, sterilized jars, and then pour the liquid over them, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace. Try to ensure that every jar has pickling spices in them; if they don’t, feel free to add a little bit more to the jars that are lacking. Remove any bubbles, wipe the jar rims, adjust the lids and bands, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Spicy Pickled Mushrooms
Feel free to omit the pepper flakes for a non-spicy version of these tasty tidbits.
7 pounds small white button mushrooms (or any combination of your favourite mushroom varieties: chop large ones into pieces)
8 cups water
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
1 1/2 cups high quality olive oil
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning or 1 tablespoon each dried basil and oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
1 medium onion, minced
12-14 garlic cloves, whole, and peeled
Wash all of the mushrooms thoroughly and then set them aside. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil, add the bottled lemon juice, and then the mushrooms: boil for 5 minutes, and then drain. Pat the mushrooms dry with a kitchen towel and set them aside.
In another saucepan, combine the oil, vinegar, spices, salt, and onions, and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat and keep the liquid on a low simmer.
Put 1 clove of garlic and a couple of peppercorns into each hot, clean, sterilized glass jar (half-pint sizes are best for this), and then pack with the mushrooms. Pour the hot vinegar/oil/onion liquid over them, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, adjust the lids and bands, and then process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
Pickled Beet and Red Cabbage Relish
This stuff is fantastic on veggie dogs/burgers, or just eaten right out of the jar with a big spoon.
1 small head of red cabbage, shredded
10-12 medium-sized beets, cooked
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 small red or orange sweet peppers, diced
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (white or red)
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups white vinegar
Blend all of the ingredients into a large saucepan on medium-high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Once the vegetables are fork-tender, raise the temperature so it’s all brought to a boil, and then pack the relish into hot, clean, jars, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe the jar rims, adjust the lids and caps, and then process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Jardiniere Spicy Pickled Vegetable Medley
From the Ball Blue Book
1 pound sweet green peppers, cut into strips (about 3 medium)
1 1/4 pound onions, sliced (3 medium)
3/4 pound zucchini, sliced (4 small)
1/2 pound carrots, cut into sticks (5 medium)
3 2/3 cups sliced celery (about 6 stalks)
4 banana peppers, cut into strips*
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons pickling spice
2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 clove garlic, minced (I use 3)
1 teaspoon salt
1 quart cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
Pickle Crisp or alum (optional)
Combine all of your vegetables in a large bowl, and set it aside. Blend together the sugar, spices, vinegar, and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add your vegetables to it and simmer them until they’re just fork-tender. Pack these hot vegetables into hot, clean jars, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace. Ladle the hot liquid over the vegetables, ensuring that there’s still 1/2 an inch of headspace at the top. If desired, you can add Pickle Crisp or alum to each jar so that the veggies inside remain firm. Remove all the air bubbles, wipe the rims, adjust the two-piece cap lids, and then process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.
*Note: whenever you cut hot peppers, be sure to wear rubber gloves in order to keep your fingers from burning, and keep your hands well away from your nostrils and eyes. Trust me on that one.
These are just a few different types of pickles that you can make, but don’t think for a second that you’d need to hold back if these ingredients aren’t readily available! You can make pickles, relishes, and chutneys out of pretty much any vegetable and fruit out there, and a quick Google search will bring up a plethora of ideas for you to play with. In addition to the ones mentioned above, you can try out:
Be safe and clean with your canning procedures, and you’re certain to have a ton of fun creating these edible gifts. Just top them with a bow or some ribbon, and know that the recipients will be nibbling happily on healthy, delicious snacks this holiday season.
All images via Shutterstock
An avid permaculture gardener, locavore, and novice (but enthusiastic!) canner, Lana Winter-Hébert joins Inhabitat after spending the last decade working as a writer and event guru for non-profit/eco organizations. In addition to her work with this site, she writes features and blog posts for Vegan Cuts, Green Pigeon, and several event planning websites based in London, UK. Currently, Lana divides her time between writing, and doing collaborative projects with Winter-Hébert: the design studio she runs with her husband. Best described as “endearingly eccentric”, she spends any spare moments wrestling with knitting projects, and devouring novels by obscure Czech writers. A Toronto native, she has recently chosen to leave that splendid city in favor of a tranquil lakeside nook in rural Quebec, where she and her Sir co-habitate with two hand-raised sparrows that live in their writing-desk.