If you want to preserve a taste of summer for the dark days of winter, why not give pickling a go?

[Read more: 4 vegetables that are healthier when they’re cooked]

It’s easy, and there are plenty of different ways to pickle, but usually all you need is vinegar, water, salt, spices, and whatever it is you fancy pickling - almost anything can be pickled, including fruit and meat, although different foods sometimes have slightly different pickling preparation methods.

And while, like anything, you shouldn’t eat too much of your pickle at once because of the high salt content, a bit of pickle can be a healthy choice because it’s low in fat and calories, and contains fibre and some (but not all) of the pickled fruit or vegetable’s vitamins and minerals. Pickles even contain probiotics and antioxidants, which can benefit overall health and digestion.

 

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What you’ll need:

- The fresh veg you want to pickle – small onions/shallots, beetroot, cucumbers, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery and peppers are popular choices. Generally, the thicker-skinned or sturdier the fruit or vegetable, the better the pickle.

- Pickling brine made of 100g salt (use sea salt or rock salt which doesn’t contain additives) to 1 litre of water.

- 1 litre malt, cider or white wine vinegar containing at least 5% acetic acid.

- Pickling spices: either buy ready-made pickling spice, or use equal amounts of fresh or dried spices of your choice, such as cinnamon, cloves, mace, allspice and peppercorns (use about 30g per litre of vinegar).

- Large pan

- Sterilised pickle jars with airtight lids

 

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The pickling process:

1. Put the spices in the vinegar and boil for at least 10 minutes before straining. You may, however, like to leave whole sprigs of herbs in the vinegar.

2. Prepare the fruit or veg by washing, peeling and cutting them into bite-size pieces. For beetroot, boil in salted water until tender and the skin can be rubbed off.

[Read more: Autumn cooking ideas: What fruit and veg is in season now and how to cook it]

3. Soak other vegetables in the pickling brine for 24 hours before draining.

4. Pack the vegetables in jars and cover them with the pickling vinegar, making sure there’s at least 1-2.5 cm (½ -1 in) of vinegar above the top of the veg to allow for possible evaporation.

5. Put the lids on tightly, and try not to use metal lids as the acidic vinegar will corrode the metal. If you have to use metal lids, use wax paper underneath them. Glass lids with rubber sealing rings are usually best.

6. Put the jars in a cool, dry, dark place and leave for at least a month or two so the flavour improves.