If you’re looking for pickles that last a long time on the shelf, then turn away from quick pickles (also known as refrigerator pickles) because their shelf life is completely unimpressive.
This article discusses how long quick pickles last on the counter, in the fridge, and when frozen.
What are quick (or Refrigerator) pickles?
Quick pickles are pickles that are made the quick and easy way.
What this means is that the pickles are not left to ferment or sit in the brine solution for long, unlike in the conventional pickling method where the pickles are required to sit for at least a week and sometime months before they are opened and consumed.
The resulting pickles, colloquially referred to as refrigerated pickles, taste more like vegetables that have been marinated rather than fermented.
How long do quick pickles last?
The way quick pickles are made means that they cannot be stored for a long duration of time.
Quick pickles aren’t canned when they’re made and because of that, they must be stored inside the refrigerator where they can keep for as long as a months (and sometimes more) before they begin to show signs of spoilage, although it is recommended to try and finish them within the first two weeks to avoid running into a product that tastes off.
Quick pickles are not meant for the counter, so if you try to keep them there the way you’d normally keep fresh pack pickles or fermented pickles, they are more than likely to grow mold, breed bacteria and cause illness to compromised individuals when consumed.
Can you freeze quick pickles?
Owing to the fact that quick pickles are quite perishable, it is important to know how best to store them in order to make them last longer.
One of the ways you can extend the shelf life of quick pickles is by freezing them, although it is important to know all of the consequences involved prior to doing so, so you’re fully prepared for them when they happen.
Freezing isn’t typically the method of preservation recommended for pickles, especially quick pickles that are meant to be a quick snack.
The reason for that is because freezing does a lot of damage to food products.
Freezing basically creates ice crystals in food items which destroys the cell wall matrix of the food.
Such destruction creates a texture in the food that is never pleasing to the taste buds.
The Frozen ice contained in the cell walls also, upon thawing, flow freely across the network because the cell walls have been destroyed, and this creates a vegetable that is mushy rather than firm.
In theory, when you freeze quick pickles, they would last indefinitely.
But because the longer you freeze, the more damage is done to the vegetable and the brine solution surrounding it (which would end up affecting the taste and texture), it’s better to consume frozen pickles earlier, if possible, within the first two months.
So how do you freeze quick pickles?
Well, you simply need to transfer them to a freezer safe container if they aren’t already inside one and make sure the seal is tight.
You can use a glass jar and even plastic storage bags that are freezer safe, just make sure the seal is tight to avoid freezer burn. Keep the pickles in there indefinitely, but use within the first 2 months for best quality.
After freezing, the next question in mind would be how to thaw the frozen pickles when its time to use them.
Going from frozen to thawed isn’t really a hard job.
Simply transfer the container of frozen pickles into the refrigeration compartment and let it sit there overnight.
The pickles are ready to consume the next day, chilled (as you definitely don’t want to heat them).
How to tell if a Quick pickle is bad
The most obvious sign that a quick pickle is bad is when you observe fungus growth (mold) on the surface. Some fungus growth, like the kahm yeast are totally harmless however, and all you need to do is to discard the surface layer containing them as leaving them on the juice will cause the pickles to bear an off flavor.
Mold is the dangerous growth here. Mold would typically pick up different coloration and would have a fuzzy appearance.
When you see mold on your refrigerated pickles be sure to discard them promptly and do not try to consume the pickles underneath because some mold spores can produce toxins which can be extremely detrimental to the health when consumed.
Another thing to look out for is smell. When you notice that your pickles give off an offensive smell when the lid is taken off, it’s time to toss them out into the trash can outside.
How do quick pickles differ from fermented pickles?
There is a reason why quick pickles are called quick pickles and not fermented or fresh pack pickles.
The main distinguishing factor between quick pickles and fermented pickles is that the former doesn’t require long fermentation (if at all the fermentation brine was used to cure the vegetables).
What does this mean?
It means that if the pickles themselves are submerged in a solution of brine which constitutes salt and water in defined ratios, then they are not allowed to sit for longer than 2 to 3 days before they are enjoyed, unlike with fermented pickles that must be allowed to sit some 3-4 weeks for them to fully develop their aroma, flavor and sourness.
Another distinguishing factor between quick pickles and fermented pickles is that the former must be stored in the refrigerator immediately after making, unlike fermented pickles that require curing time on the counter first, before they are transferred into a new brine, (canned) or simply transferred to the refrigerator to store.
Then the last and the most important factor that distinguishes between the two pickles is taste.
How does quick pickle taste in comparison to a fermented pickle?
Quick pickles have a “marinated” taste as opposed to “fermented taste” and this is caused by the reduced fermentation time given to the vegetables, and also the fact that they are stored in the refrigerator which slows down any possible fermentation that can happen.
The fact that quick pickles don’t taste like fermented pickles doesn’t mean they don’t taste good.
In fact quick pickles can be better tasting to some people compared to the sour or tangy taste of fermented pickles, because not everyone likes the sour taste of fermented vegetables.
How do quick pickles differ from fresh pack pickles?
In terms of how quick pickles differ from fresh pack pickles, everything still boils down to storage time prior to consumption.
Fresh pack pickles are left in their brine solution of water, vinegar and salt (and sometimes sugar) for at least 2 weeks before they are consumed.
Quick pickles on the other hand can be consumed in as little as 48 hours after soaking them in brine.
Another big difference that exists between quick pickles and fresh pack pickles is the fact that almost always, fresh pack pickles are canned and processed, which allows them to keep at room temperature for many weeks in order to cure.
Quick pickles on the other hand, despite having the same brine solution as fresh pack pickles, aren’t canned, so must be stored in the fridge in order for them to remain good.