As is typical with my cooking posts, this is the report of an amateur playing around than a dissertation by an expert.
I've been pickling some veggies lately. There are various advantages to this, such as getting some additional life out of a cooked veggie that needs to have something happen to it, as with the beets I put in a brine the other night. But the main reason I'm doing it is that the little flavor bombs are delicious, and eating them feels like I'm treating myself luxuriously. Fairly often, when I want a bedtime snack, a few bites of a good pickle does as a fine substitute for alternatives that would be much higher in calories.
The pickle world sort of divides into two main approaches: processed pickles add a brine to a veggie in a jar that is sealed under sterile conditions: this is often called canning. If it's done right, the results are stable at room temperature almost indefinitely.
My experiments, though, have been with what are called quick or refrigerator pickles. The veggie is placed in a brine and then in the refrigerator. It's ready to eat in a few days and typically lasts for a few weeks. (If you resist eating them for that long.)
The brine is typically a combination of water, salt, vinegar, often some spices, and some sugar. (I haven't tried this yet, but I was reading yesterday that Splenda or the like can be used in quick pickles though not for processed pickles.) Brines differ in the proportions and in the type of vinegar years, because different veggies vary in the level of acidity that work best, and different tastes may be sought.
Basically, following the recipe, you build the brine in a saucepan, chop your veggies and place them in the jar. Pour the brine over the veggies, put on the lid, and refrigerate. It really is easy-peasy.
I've done a mild version of kimchee, beets, bread-and-butter pickles, and pearl onions. My very favorite, though, is pickling roasted red peppers - I've used the Food Network recipe here. This recipe also teaches you how to roast peppers, which is pretty easy and (if you like roasted peppers) is a HUGE savings over buying them at a deli.
If you're interested in playing with this, check your favorite markets for a spice blend called "pickling spice". When I got in a toot to use it, the store I used most didn't have it, and made my own blend out of a bunch of stuff. This may be fresher, but the packaged blend would be easier!
Go on. Get in a pickle.