Friday, June 17, 2011

Pickling...for someone who doesn't much like pickles

I know the concept of a self-professed "pickler" doesn't seem to mesh well with a non-pickle-eater, but I prefer to look on the bright side of things. For my whole life I passed the free pickle on my dinner plate to my neighbor and said "no thank you" to my mother as she munched on pickles as a late night snack. In fact, I am so inexperienced in eating pickles that I don't know anything about buying them, how to distinguish between the many varied types found on the wall of pickles at the grocery store.  

But in the past months, I've learned that there's room in the realm of pickling even for me. From radishes to carrots to cherries and blood oranges, I'm in heaven with a jar of pickled vegetables at my finger tips.


Pickled Cherries and Blood Oranges

1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
3 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 lb. fresh bing cherries, pitted
2 blood oranges
1-2 large rosemary sprigs
we had to improvise with a meat thermometer, lacking a true cherry pitter
1. Zest one blood orange. Peel both oranges and thinly slice the peel of the non-zested orange. Chop both oranges. 
2. Bring the first 6 ingredients and zest from one orange to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. 
3. Strain and return to the pan. Add cherries, oranges and rosemary. Simmer until cherries are tender, 3-5 minutes.
4. Pour fruit into a mason jar and add enough pickling liquid to cover. Store up to 1 month, serve chilled. 

I served these sweet and spicy treats with shortbread, which turned out to be a delicious dessert. Other more savory pairings for pickled cherries include cornichons, pate or salami.

Spicy Pickled Carrots

1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups distilled white vinegar

0.5 ounce chiles de arbol, stems removed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt, to taste
1 pound carrots, cut into thin rounds
1/4 cup slivered onions
1 garlic clove
1 jalapeño, seeds and stem removed, sliced

1. In a medium-sized pot, bring the first 4 ingredients to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, uncovered.
2. Add cumin, oregano, black pepper and salt, and continue to cook on medium for 5 more minutes. 

3. Add the sliced carrots, onions, garlic and jalapeño, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the carrots are the desired texture. Taste and add more salt if you prefer.
4. Cool and refrigerate for up to one month.

These carrots are very spicy, but also very tasty. Feel free to cut down on the chiles de arbol or use less jalapeno to tame the heat. Dried chiles de arbol can be found at Mexican grocery stores. 

 Pickled Radishes

1/2 cup red wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
healthy pinch red pepper flakes
2 to 3 cups radishes, quartered or sliced to your preference
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1. Place radishes in a mason jar and top with fennel seeds. 
2. Whisk together the first five ingredients; stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour the vinegar mixture over the radishes. Cover the jar and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to one week.
These radishes are a perfect summer snack one their own, offering a nice kick of flavor. Using rice wine vinegar gives a subtle Asian flavor which I paired with spicy coleslaw on a beef and feta slider. I've also found that watermelon radishes, my favorite, tend to retain more of the radish flavor, making them a good candidate for pickling.

So readers, what foods do you like to pickle?

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