Quickles Are Pickles in a Hurry


How quickly can you pickle? Usually, we think of pickles as a longer term process involving canners, bushels of cucumbers and green beans and onions, and gallons of vinegar, and lots of jars or crocks. But suppose you just want a little bit of tang on your plate, or to delay the expiration of a cucumber by a couple of days or to rescue some poor little carrot before it gets limp? Apparently, quickles are the answer.

Sugar, salt, and a bit of vinegar do the trick. Every bit as easy as making a salad and salad dressing, assembling quick pickles results in a jar of flavorful vegetables to add to a green salad or to serve separately on the plate, or to chop and add to slaw.

The quickest quick-pickle of them all is the old way of dressing cucumber spears or slices with a shake of salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of vinegar. That has been around for a long time but no one thought of calling it by a pickle-sounding name. In summer, I do a cucumber with onions dish that I always called marinated cucumbers but which would qualify as a quickle because it calls for equal quantities of sugar and vinegar poured over a bowl full of sliced cukes and onions, with a little water added. The vegetables soften up a little and are so tasty. They keep well in the fridge and a batch will last a couple or three days.

All you really need for quickles is a couple of simple formulas and the spirit of experimentation. Your choice of vegetables may be different in winter than in summer, but the formulas will work no matter when you want to “quickle” a vegetable. To vary the formulas, consider using different kinds of vinegar. Instead of cider vinegar, try rice vinegar or white wine.

Use spices to taste. I like mustard seeds, garlic, black pepper, celery seeds. You might like a little sprinkle of red pepper flakes, or a touch of horseradish. By the way, in the soft quickles below, there is no vinegar added but if you wish a little acid bite, feel free to sprinkle a little on them vegetables in addition to the salt and sugar.

My most recent batch of quickles consisted of a few chips of butternut squash, some sliced carrot, a couple of sliced radishes, and a rib of celery. Among other wintery vegetables, celeriac and cauliflower florets would be good along with chips or matchsticks of rutabaga or turnip.

Soft Vegetable Quickles

1-2 cups cukes, zucchini, summer squash, onions, green beans, etc., sliced or julienne

1 tablespoon sugar

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Black pepper, capsicum peppers, dill seed, mustard seeds, horseradish, celery seeds to taste

Sprinkle over the vegetables and toss.

Let stand for 10 minutes at least, and serve .

Store in a fridge.

Hard Vegetable Quickles
  • 2-3 cups radishes, carrots, turnips, shredded cabbage, winter squash, sliced or julienne
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Black pepper, capsicum peppers, garlic, mustard seeds, celery seeds,
  • cloves, allspice, bay leaf to taste
  1. Bring to a boil, pour over prepped veges. Eat when cool.
  2. Store in the fridge.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.