Around this time last year, we received an invitation to a friend’s pickling party. We fully realize there are many on the vinegar-averse side of the pickle spectrum in the world, but we both fall heavily on whatever the opposite end of that spectrum might be—vinegar-obsessed; brine-dependant; pickledicted? Whatever you’d like to call, we dig pickles of many and most kinds, across many and most culinary spheres. (If you’ve never had any of the varieties of the very intense and craveable Indian pickle, we’d highly recommend giving them a try.)
So needless to say, we were stoked to be invited to a pickle party (not to be confused with a sausage fest).
Actually, this wasn’t just any pickle party, this was, as our friend and fellow pickle-enthusiest put it, “an afternoon of pickling and sitting around in the backyard being unproductive, colloquially referred to as the Just The Tip Pickle-a-thon.”
We’re very much a high-low culture kind of group.
What followed, though, was a lovely, relatively refined afternoon of laid-back pickling on a massive level, complimented by good company, cocktails, and a nice view of Los Angeles from our friend’s back yard in Altadena. We thought the whole thing worth both documentation and potential replication for anyone interested, especially as we near non-peak-produce season for much of the country.
Key to the success of the party was making the whole thing as easy to participate in as possible.
Pickling’s something that can seem intimidating to anyone who hasn’t done it before, especially for those only familiar with traditional canning and the arduous sterilization of jars involved. But, unless you’re a homesteader looking to feed yourself through a long, harsh winter, quick-pickling will likely get the job done for you and knock down some mental barriers that could keep you from delicious homemade pickles. (Instructions abound on the web, but Eating Well has a nice, un-daunting how-to that we like on the non-canning version of pickling.)
With the goal in-mind of making pickling easy, our friend and her roommates generously provided snacks, drinks, a wealth of sealable glass mason jars, and a huge stockpot full of brine. All they asked attendees to bring were “food items you’d like to preserve in a salty brine for all eternity” and any additional drinks or snacks anyone might like.
True, putting down for spices and mason jars is a bit of an investment, but it went a long way to easing the buy-in for us party-goers. Plus, in this case, they kept the brine very simple, multiplying this recipe from Epicurious (the above-linked quick-pickle instructions list good basic sweet brines and sour brines too), and mason jars are made to be bought in bulk at pretty reasonable prices, online and in most larger grocery stores. If the finances are still a barrier though, it’s easy enough to ask everyone to chip in a couple bucks for the whole thing.
At the end of a long, lazy day of catching up with friends and sharing a glass or two of pickle-friendly cocktails, we ended up with a nice array of pickled vegetables that we enjoyed both on their own as happy hour snacks and as complimentary toppers on meals in the months to come (I for one enjoy a sliced pickled radish on just about any Asian dish).
So next time you’re looking for an excuse to hang out with friends and running low on briney condiments, consider a pickling party.