Our civilization has been pickling fruits and vegetables for thousands of years. But what started as a simple way to preserve fruits and vegetables has exploded into a full-blown cultural phenomenon, with pro-picklers and artisans packing everything into Ball jars, from homegrown produce to spicy salsas, and everything in between. Here are 14 of our favorite alternatives, that extend the art of pickling well beyond plain old cucumbers:
1. Watermelon Rinds
If you’re only eating the juicy, pink part of the watermelon, you’re missing some of the best part! Pickled watermelon rinds are a sweet-yet savory condiment that pairs well with everything from pan-seared pork chops to slow-cooked beef chuck roast.
2. Meyer Lemons
If you’ve been dabbling in the kitchen with Middle Eastern or Indian flavors, pickled preserved lemons will allow you to kick your cuisine up to unheard of levels of deliciousness. Brined in salt and their own tart juices, preserved lemons add brightness to savory dishes, but plan ahead; start to finish, the project takes about three weeks.
3. Pickled Eggs
Pickled eggs don’t have to be the exclusive domain of the bar down by the ironworks where your stepdad isn’t allowed to go anymore. It’s easy to make pickled eggs at home, with no special equipment and no complicated canning techniques.
Try: A splash of beet juice in the pickling brine will imbue your pickled eggs with a gorgeous pink color.
4. Scalloped Potatoes
Want to wake up this comfort food classic? Pickled scalloped potatoes combine the warm, soothing creaminess of scalloped potatoes, with the salty, snappy brine of pickles, for an updated version of this dish that’s sure to please even the pickiest of palates.
Sure, it’s fun to throw around at weddings and parties, but did you know that store-bought confetti makes the perfect base for a pickle that you’d be proud to sell at the local hipster flea market (2nd Saturday of every month)?
Try: Rice wine vinegar makes a perfect foundation for this pickle, adding plenty of acidic vinegar flavor, without overpowering the delicacy of all of those little bits of landfill-clogging multicolored paper.
We’ve all been there: One of your expensive, most beloved sweaters goes into your armoire in the spring, and by fall, it’s full of tiny little holes, around the collar and sleeve cuffs. This type of destruction can only mean one thing: You’ve got moths. But did you know that store-bought mothballs make a perky pickle that will drive away those pesky hell-butterflies and keep your clothes intact and smelling kind of weirdly off, season after season?
7. A Wad of Human Hair
Thanks to foodies everywhere, we all know by now how delicious human hair can be. But it can be tough to prepare properly; without proper brining, human hair can be difficult to digest and can cause gallstones.
Try: Don’t stop with your own hair. Hair from multiple people adds zest and multiculturalism to your pickles. Ask the friendly desk clerk at your local gym to save you any hair they find, or get chummy with your hairdresser, to try multiple styles and colors in your next pickle project.
8. A Pair of Mechanics Overalls
What we love about pickled mechanics overalls is that, depending on the mechanic you choose, half of the pickling work has been done for you. Any mechanic worth his (pickling) salt will have a wide array of fluids on his protective pants, from transmission fluid to antifreeze to Spaghetti-Os, all of which add a complex, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it quality to your next batch of pickles.
9. Your Middle School Journal
Like many of us, you probably have a plastic tote full of your old notebooks from Middle School tucked away in an attic or self-storage unit. If you think you’ll never again want to relive the pain of that time you wrote Emily a four-page heartfelt note detailing the way her hair moves in the warmth of an April afternoon, only to have her decline to dance with you at the Spring Formal, and so you were left to wander around outside drinking stolen rum from a plastic water bottle while “The Power” by Snap! blared on the gymnasium’s sound system, these are the pickles for you.
Try: Look for pages that have been covered in the drunken loneliness of your adolescent tears, for an extra briney kick of flavor.
10. A Rollin’ 20s Crip
If you’re lucky enough to make your home on the West Coast, where growing seasons last year-round and the availability of fresh produce is unparalleled anywhere else on the planet, you’ve probably already considered pickling your own Rollin’ 20s Crip. Though you may have to shop online for a large enough pickling container, the effort is well worth it, since these produce crisp pickles with a tenderness that belies their rough-and-tumble exterior.
Try: Trimming the blue flag that hangs out the backside, but only on the left side; yeah, that’s the Crip side.
11. Deer Penis
For millenia, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have known of the therapeutic properties of preserved deer penis. While expensive, since the penis must be removed from a live animal in order to maintain its medicinal properties, deer penis pickles can be brined in a traditional vinegar and salt solution, or even in heavily sugared black tea or Diet Mountain Dew.
12. Nelly Furtado
Wether you prefer her earlier work (“Like a Bird”) or her steamier “Promiscuous” era, you probably didn’t know that this saucy Latin Grammy Award-winning songstress tastes great with multi-ingredient, tropical pickle brines that are as complex as you would expect from a Portuguese-Canadian multiplatinum artist. Try: Pickled Nelly Furtado pairs well with a side of James Morrison…but we “Broken Strings” fans already know that, amirite?
13. Aluminum Siding
When trimmed to poppable portions, aluminum siding makes a perfect snack for parties. But no matter how finely you dice it, you can still sometimes end up with larger portions that can be difficult to chew, and react badly with your guests’ amalgam tooth fillings. No need to plan ahead, here; a quick pickle in a mixture of equal parts orange and freshly-squeezed lime juice adds a sweet tartness to even the biggest pile of leftover construction material.
14. A DVD Copy of “Swordfish”
Though millions have enjoyed this 2001-era film, starring John Travlota as counter-terrorism expert Gabriel Shear, a duplicitious and suave anti-hero/questionable facial hair enthusiast, who is trying to unlock a 400 million dollar payday from behind a wall of encryption by recruiting a reluctant hacker who just wants to see his daughter again (Hugh Jackman) as well as for some reason a topless Halle Berry, finding a DVD copy can be difficult.
Try: Scouring eBay for a used copy, or the chaotic hellscape of the dollar DVD bin at Walmart.