High on our early ancestors' list of things to do was finding a way to preserve food. Sun drying and salting were certainly functional, but dull and aesthetically awful. At some point along the way to your grandmother's kitchen, someone came up with a solution which is called the pickle.

Pickling is simply the soaking of raw or poached vegetables in a salty solution. The salt draws moisture out of the vegetables thus inhibiting the growth of micro-organisms which cause fungi, molds and other foul-tasting plagues too awful to contemplate. In many cultures the simple craft of pickling has developed into a refined culinary art.

Today, any modestly equipped kitchen provides an excellent laboratory for producing economical and healthful varieties of pickled delights unlike anything offered in supermarkets. The following recipes can be made in small quantities and "cured" in the refrigerator for several weeks. These are not shelf recipes and should be kept refrigerated during the curing and afterwards, even if unopened.

First, some tips for creating a perpetual place for pickles on your table.

The saltwater part of the brine solution should contain three tablespoons of salt per pint of water. It is best to use kosher or coarse salt as the free-flowing ingredient in many table salts has a tendency to produce a cloudy brine. A basic brine could consist of three parts of salted water to one part vinegar but more salt or vinegar may be added according to taste. It is not necessary to use special canning jars. Any thoroughly clean, grease-free glass jar with a tight-fitting lid will do.

Choose firm, fresh vegetables and fruits. Clean or peel them thoroughly. To insure success, make certain that the brine solution comes right to the top of the jar, with no room for air pockets. In just a few short weeks you will be able to say with a new joy in your heart and a special smile on your lips, "Please pass the pickles!"

Recipes for Possible Pickles

For adults and children who hate turnips, simply tell them that these slices are pink potato chips and watch them disappear. The beets give the white turnips a lovely pink color.

Safa's Favorite Pickled Turnips 1 large beet, sliced 1 celery stalk per jar 4 cloves fresh garlic per jar 2 pounds turnips, sliced brine to cover made with red wine vinegar

At the bottom of each jar place slices of beet, celery and garlic. Fill the rest of the jar with sliced turnips. Pack tightly. Fill to brim with brine. Refrigerate. Turnips should be ready in about two weeks.This recipe, from Mexico, is a zippy compliment to Mexican food and goes equally well with everything from hot dogs to filet mignon :

Alfonso's Pickles 1 pound small white onions, poached five minutes in brine to cover 1 pound carrots, sliced 1 pound cabbage, finely sliced 1/2 pound jalapeno peppers, whole brine to cover made with white cider vinegar

Poach onions in enough brine to cover. Let cool and slice finely. Layer onions, carrots, cabbage and peppers in jars. Pack tightly. Cover with rest of brine. Refrigerate. Pickles should be ready in 10 days to two weeks.If you find baby eggplants in the market or are lucky enough to have a garden, this recipe offers an unusual treat. You may omit the cayenne if you like, but it's a bit like the matador who went into the bull ring without his cape. Be adventurous !

Rifka's Pickled Baby Eggplants 2 pounds baby eggplants salt 3/4 pound ground walnuts 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 4 cloves garlic, crushed brine to cover made with white wine vinegar

Wash eggplants and make an incision in each one. Poach covered in salted water for five to 10 minutes until soft. Mix walnuts, cayenne and garlic into a paste and stuff each eggplant through incision. Pack in jars and cover with brine. Refrigerate. Eggplants should be ready to eat in about one week.If you are in the habit of buying fresh vegetables each week, a few extra ounces at the market should yield the ingredients for the following recipe. You could also include cabbage, unwaxed cucumbers, sweet peppers, green tomatoes, and okra .

Mixed Pickles 1/2 pound green beans, poached in salted water for five minutes 1/2 pound Jerusalem artichokes or sun chokes peeled and sliced 1/2 pound carrots, sliced 1/2 pound cauliflower, separated into flowerets 1/2 pound turnips, sliced 1/2 pound hot peppers, whole 3 cloves garlic per jar 3 sprigs fresh dill per jar 3 whole peppercorns per jar 4 coriander seeds per jar 2 stalks celery per jar brine made with red wine vinegar

Wash vegetables. Place garlic, dill, peppercorns, coriander and celery in jars. Layer vegetables. Pack tightly and fill to brim with brine. Refrigerate. Pickles should be ready in two weeks.In this recipe the lemons or limes are "cured" before they are packed into jars. The oil is used to preserve and add flavor .

Pickled lemons or Limes 4 whole lemons or limes coarse salt 10 or 12 hot green or cherry peppers, sliced corn or nut oil

Slice lemons or limes and sprinkle with coarse salt. Let sit in colander for at least eight but not more than 24 hours. The fruit will become tender and lose its bitterness. Pack slices tightly in jars alternating layers with sliced peppers. Fill jars to brim with oil. Refrigerate. They should be ready in three to four weeks.

My Pickled Mushrooms 2 pounds whole mushrooms 1/2 teaspoon oregano basic brine made with red wine vinegar olive oil

Wash mushrooms, trim stems, and pack tightly in jars. Add oregano to brine. Fill jars with brine, but leave space for a half-inch seal of olive oil. Refrigerate. The mushrooms should be ready in a week to 10 days. CAPTION: Picture, Out of your refrigerator in a few days can flow a brilliant bouquet of unusual pickles: clockwise from upper left, My Pickled Mushrooms, Rifka's Pickled Baby Eggplants, Mixed Pickles, Safa's Favorite Pickled Turnips, Pickled Lemons and Alfonso's Pickles.