Basic Quick Pickling Brine - for Cucumbers or Beets!

pickling brine

Recipe Level: Basic | Recipe Speed: Average | Season: All | Type: Condiment | Diet: Vegan/GF/DF

  • 2 cups vinegar, such as cider, white wine, red wine, champagne, or rice wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar or maple syrup, or 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns (optional, but good in most pickles)
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds (optional, but good in most pickles)
  • Other whole spices, or dried or fresh herbs, as desired*
  • Thin slices of red or yellow onion, or shallot; or a few cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 pounds vegetables, fruit, and/or dried fruit. If you want to pickle tougher vegetables, you could cook them lightly, first. 
  1. To make the brine, combine all ingredients (except for the vegetables or fruits you wish to pickle) in a small saucepan. Bring the liquid to a simmer, turn off the heat, and let sit for 1 hour to steep.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare your pickle ingredients, usually by cleaning them and slicing them thinly, and pack them into glass jars. 
  3. When the brine has steeped, reheat it to a simmer, and pour it equally into each jar. Push down the ingredients with a fork. If your brine doesn't cover the ingredients fully, boil a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar, and add it to the jars.
  4. If you pickled tender items, such as cucumbers, they'll be ready whenever you wish to eat them, but they will get more pickle-y and delicious over time. Tougher items, such as beets, will benefit from more time in the brine. 

Safety Note: These pickles are not "canned," and must be stored in the refrigerator. 

Here are some combinations that make particularly good pickles: 

  • Cucumbers, white wine vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaf, the leaves, flowers or seeds of dill
  • Beets, red wine vinegar, red onion, orange peel, cinnamon stick, allspice
  • Red onion, red wine vinegar, dried cherries, peppercorn, mustard seed, bay leaf
  • Peaches, champagne vinegar peppercorns, cardamom, garlic
  • Daikon, cucumber, carrot, rice wine vinegar, cilantro, ginger, chile flakes

Mustard Mashed Potatoes

Recipe Level: Creative | Recipe Speed: Average | Season: All | Type: Side - Starchy | Diet: Vegetarian/GF

  • 5 large, 8 medium, or 12 small russet potatoes
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional garnishes, such as chives, scallions, bits of bacon, fresh dill, etc.
  1. Wash the potatoes, quarter them, and cut each quarter into similar-sized chunks. Place the potatoes in a large pot, and add cold water to cover them by an inch or two. 
  2. Bring the potatoes to a boil, and cook until they are tender and mashable.
  3. Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pot. Add butter, mustard, and salt and pepper. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, or do it the way that chefs do, and use a strong whisk. If you don't have either of those things, a pastry blender can also do the trick. 
  4. Taste the potatoes. Do you want them to be more creamy? If so, add more butter, milk, or cream. Do they need more salt or pepper? Would you like them to be more tangy? Then add more mustard. 
  5. Top with any optional garnishes you'd like, and serve. 

Cottage Pie with Mustard Mashed Potatoes and Grated Cheese*


Recipe Level: Creative | Recipe Speed: Leisurely | Season: All | Type: Main Dish | Diet: Omnivore/GF

  • 1 medium onion
  • Sunflower oil, or whatever oil you prefer
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 recipe Mustard Mashed Potatoes
  • Smoked paprika
  • 1/2 pound cheese, such as Halfpipe from Mt Mansfield Creamery, or Shelburne Farms Cheddar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel the onion, halve it, and chop it. 
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium pan over medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and translucent. 
  4. Add the ground beef to the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the beef is browned. Remove the meat from the pan, and scoop into a 9x13 glass baking dish. 
  5. While the beef is cooking, strip the kale from its stems, rinse it, and chop it.
  6. Heat another tablespoon of oil, and wilt the kale. It's done when it's bright green and tender. In your glass baking dish, make a layer of kale on top of the layer of beef. 
  7. Mix a tablespoon of smoked paprika into the mashed potatoes. Taste the potatoes for seasoning. When they are delightful, spread them on top of the kale in the baking dish.
  8. Grate the cheese onto the top of the casserole. 
  9. Bake at 350-degrees for 30 minutes. Then, turn on the broiler, and broil until the top is browned, between 3 and 5 minutes, depending on your oven. Remove from the oven, and let rest for a few minutes before serving. 

*Most people refer to this as Shepherd's Pie, but Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb, and Cottage Pie is made with beef.

*The vegetable layer of a Cottage Pie can be made up of anything you'd like! I've used corn; a combination of corn and sautéed pea shoots; wilted spinach or Swiss chard; caramelized onions; and other combos I've probably forgotten. 


Blood Orange & Cranberry Vinaigrette, plus Blood Orange Suprèmes

Recipe Level: Creative | Recipe Speed: Average | Season: All | Type: Salad | Diet: Vegan/DF/GF

  • 2 medium blood oranges
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1 cup oil (this can be 1 full cup of a slightly nutty or neutral oil, such as sunflower or grapeseed, or 2/3 cup neutral oil plus 1/3 cup stronger-flavored oil, such as olive, sesame, or walnut)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • Pepper to taste


  1. Using this handy guide, cut the blood oranges into suprèmes, squeeze the juice from the leftover bits, and reserve all of the juice for salad dressing. If that's too much work, just separate one of the oranges into segments -- and halve the segments -- and juice the second orange. 
  2. Place the blood orange juice in a bowl, and add the vinegar. Add the dried cranberries to the bowl and let them soak. 
  3. Peel shallot, cut in half through the stem ends, and cut. If you will be mixing the salad dressing in a blender or food processor, you can chop the shallot roughly. If you’ll be whisking the dressing by hand, you’ll want to mince the shallot.   
  4. If you’re using a blender, combine all of the ingredients, and purée. The mustard will act as an emulsifier, which means that it will allow the oil and vinegar to mix, and it will make the resulting dressing seem creamy, even though it isn’t.
  5. If you’re making the dressing by hand, you could combine all of the ingredients in a jar, cover it with a lid, and shake it. Or, you could combine everything except the oil in a bowl, and drizzle in the oil while whisking.
  6. When you are dressing a salad, start with less dressing than you think you’ll need, add it to the bowl with the greens, and toss gently with tongs. Taste a leaf, and add more dressing, or salt, as needed. 

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Recipe Level: Basic | Recipe Speed: Quick | Season: All | Type: Condiment - Savory | Diet: Vegan/DF/GF

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. On a baking sheet, toss the seeds with a drizzle of oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 
  3. Toast the seeds until some of them have turned from green to golden brown, stirring and turning the pan part-way through the cooking process, if they seem to be cooking unevenly. 

Mesclun Salad with Roasted Beets, Blood Orange, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, & Blood-Orange Cranberry Vinaigrette


Recipe Level: Creative | Recipe Speed: Average | Season: Spring/Summer | Type: Salad | Diet: Vegan/DF/GF

  • Mesclun greens
  • 1 recipe "Blood Orange & Cranberry Vinaigrette, Plus Blood Orange Suprèmes"
  • Roasted beets, cubed
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  1. Place the mesclun greens in a large salad bowl.
  2. Toss with vinaigrette.
  3. Garnish with blood orange suprèmes, roasted beet cubes, and pumpkin seeds. This would be great with feta or goat cheese, too.