I'd always been under the impression that pickling vegetables was a long and arduous process, until I came across David Lebovitz's pickled red onion recipe and realized that it doesn't have to be. (Of the various pickling methods, these are considered "fresh pickles".) Here's what you do...
1. Pick & slice the veggies: the easiest way is to use vegetables that you can eat raw. I used one red onion (which gives it that gorgeous color) and one cucumber. If you're using vegetables that you would usually eat cooked, like beets or cauliflower, cook them first until tender.
2. Pick your spices: really, the possibilities are endless – try using spices like mustard seeds, cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, red pepper flakes, or juniper berries. I used bay leaves and peppercorns.
3. Prepare the pickling liquid: in a pot, combine 2 cups white vinegar, 1/3 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, and the spices (I used two bay leaves and about 25 peppercorns). Heat on high until the mixture comes to a boil, then add the veggies. Lower heat and simmer for 30 seconds. Turn heat off.
4. Pour into the jars: using the amounts above will fill six 8-ounce canning jars. Pour the veggies & liquid into the jars and let cool before putting the lids back on. Keep refrigerated.
5. Play the waiting game: surprisingly, the veggies start to taste deliciously tart almost immediately after cooking, but it's better to wait at least 24 hours before eating to get a deeper flavor.
6. Eat & enjoy: yes, okay, I admit it: I eat these straight out of the jar. But they're also amazing on sandwiches, served with cheese & crackers, and in salads. Pickled vegetables made this way will last for at least a couple weeks in the fridge. If you want to store them for a longer time, unrefrigerated, you'll need to seal the jars. Simple Bites has a good overview here on how to do so. Enjoy!