Preserving takes a certain level of culinary skill, not to mention a large pot, a canning rack and a stash of mason jars at the ready. But for beginners who lack the knowledge or tools to start the process at home, the quick pickle comes to the rescue. We found just the recipe to scratch our DIY itch in Chicago chef Paul Virant’s instructive new cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen. His quick-pickled leeks offer all the charm of more elaborate recipes but with minimal effort. We had our leeks pickling in 20 minutes and have been using them to accent salads, glazed vegetables and grilled fish all week.

Quick-Pickled Leeks

Recipe adapted from "The Preservation Kitchen" by Paul Virant (Ten Speed Press)

  • Makes about 3 cups
  • Start to Finish: 20 minutes (plus 2-hour cooling time)

Ingredients

4 leeks

1 1/2 cups Champagne vinegar

1 cup water

3 sprigs thyme

3 bay leaves

Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 teaspoons zest and 3 tablespoons juice)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

1. Using a sharp knife, slice off the root ends of the leeks, keeping as much of the white ends intact as possible. Trim away the dark-green tips and discard. Make an incision lengthwise halfway through the leek. Pry the leek open and run under water, fanning it open to remove any residual dirt. Slice the leeks crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. (You should have about 4 cups leeks.)

2. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar with the water, thyme, bay leaves, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the leeks, cover and simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes.

3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate until needed. (This recipe can be made more than a week in advance and will keep for 2 weeks, so long as the leeks stay submerged in the pickling liquid.)

Finishing Touches

It's the details that count! Try these tips

  • The Preservation Kitchen offers recipes for more elaborate pickled products, from tangy jams to cured meats.

  • Everything looks better in a mason jar. A simple widemouthed version gussies up a shelf or turns your creations into perfect hostess gifts.

  • Stop by Paul Virant's restaurants, Vie and Perennial Virant, next time you're in Chicago.

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