Note: Sizes of jars vary, as do volume of vegetables, depending on type. This is a guideline on how to pickle vegetables in general, the type of vegetable you choose and the number of jars depends on what you have! The water volume is varied, depending on how tart you like your pickles - the less water used, the tarter the pickling results.
Wash jars and new lids well with soap and hot water. Let air dry on a clean wire rack or other clean surface.
Blanche and cool any hard vegetables, such as carrots, green beans and beets. (Peel carrots before blanching, peel beets after.) Softer vegetables can be pickled raw, such as cauliflower, okra, thin green beans and peppers. Vegetables can be pickled whole or cut into smaller pieces. If pickling whole, trim to fit jars short of 1-inch from the top. Fill the jars snugly with the vegetables, leaving a 1-inch space at the top.
Place the seeds and peppercorns in a dry skillet and heat over medium-high heat to toast the seeds, shaking the pan frequently. When the seeds become aromatic and start to pop, in 1-2 minutes, remove from heat and distribute the seeds and peppercorns evenly among the jars. Add herbs if desired.
In a sauce pot, mix the water, vinegars, salt, sugar and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower and let simmer 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Pour the boiling mixture into a large measuring cup or other heatproof vessel with a pour spout. Pour enough hot liquid into each jar to cover the vegetables completely. Wipe the mouths of the jars dry, then place lids on snugly, turning until resistance is felt, but not so tight that the lid won’t turn any further.
Sterilize jars in a water bath in a deep pot large enough to hold the jars upright in a single layer with a few inches height above the lids. Place a wire rack with feet into the bottom of the pot. Place the jars onto the wire rack so that they aren’t sitting directly on the bottom of the pot. Fill pot 2/3 full of water and place over high heat.
If needed, add more water so that it covers the jars 1-inch over their tops. When the water comes to a boil, let boil 10 minutes, making sure the water covers the jars the entire time. (Bring some water to a boil in a separate pot in case you need to add some to the large pot to keep the jars covered.)
Turn heat off and use tongs to remove jars from the water, placing onto a towel-lined sheet pan.
Let the jars sit undisturbed to cool. You may hear the lids ‘pop’ when the contents of the jars cool enough to create a vacuum inside, which sort of sucks the lid on tight, creating a tight seal. The jars should be refrigerated at this point. The pickles are ready to eat in a couple of days, but will intensify the longer they sit. Unopened jars will last 2-3 months in refrigerator. Once opened, eat within a couple of weeks.