By Caryn Anderson

Start to Finish: Active: 10 minutes / Inactive: 24 hours to 3 weeks
Yield:
Approximately 1 quartDifficulty Level: Beginner

The bright salty tang of pickling brine accents the mild onion flavor of leeks to create a new twist on traditional pickles that pack a delicate crunch and explosive flavor. Quick pickled leeks, the recipe for which was inspired by The Preservation Kitchen, are ready within 24 hours, while traditional pickling takes approximately three weeks. The traditional pickle brine recipe was inspired by The Georgian Feast. No matter which method you choose, once you have the basic pickling procedure down pat, you easily can customize your recipe.

Ingredients

Quick Pickled Leeks

  • 4 leeks
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups mild vinegar such as white wine, rice wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Traditional Pickled Leeks

  • 1 pound leeks. cleaned and sliced into 1/4-inch half moons
  • 2 stalks of vegetables roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 to 2 cups vinegar

Directions

Quick Pickled Leeks

1. Clean the leeks by trimming off the roots without removing too much of the white part of the leek. Cut the dark-green tops off the leeks and slice the stalk in half.

2. Run the leeks under cold water, fanning them out slightly to remove as much grit as possible.

3. Slice the stalks crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces that resemble half moons.

4. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, lemon zest and juice, and sugar in a small to medium saucepan.

5. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat before adding the leeks.

6. Cover the pan and simmer the leeks in the pickling brine for two minutes.

7. Take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool before transferring the mixture to an airtight, lidded container.

8. Place the container of quick pickled leeks in the refrigerator and allow them to sit for at least 24 hours before sampling them.

Traditional Pickled Leeks

1. Put a tea kettle or saucepan of water on the stove and bring it to a boil over high heat. Place the cleaned, cut leeks in a large bowl and pour the water over them.

2. Let the leeks stand for approximately one minute in boiling water to soften them before draining them in a sieve or colander and thoroughly rinsing them with cool water.

3. Transfer the leeks to a tall, quart-sized jar along with the cut-up vegetable stalks, bay leaf and salt.

4. Pour the vinegar over the mixture, using enough to cover all the vegetables. Seal the jar and keep it in an out-of-the-way spot where it can sit at room temperature for approximately three weeks. Refrigerate the pickled leeks after opening the jar.

Variations

Use one of the following methods to add or alter the flavor of pickled leeks:

Herbs and seasonings: Use any combination of strong spices that suit your palate. Food blog serious eats recommends using a tablespoon of each spice you choose, which may include peppercorns, bay leaf, whole chiles, fresh dill, fennel, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, garlic cloves or cumin seeds.

Vinegar: In addition to using more or less vinegar to increase or decrease the tang of pickled leeks, you also may use a different type of vinegar for a fast way to change the flavor. Try new, high-quality vinegars such as citron vinegar or an infused vinegar in addition to your less-expensive vinegar to add complexity to the flavors. Food blog Food Republic recommends making your own fruit-infused vinegar by chopping fruit that's gone beyond its prime, adding it to vinegar, heating the mixture and letting it steep for about two days. Use the fruity vinegar to pickle leeks with a hint of sweetness.