Pickling made easy!

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by Sherry Kline

azfamily.com

Posted on August 11, 2011 at 10:10 AM

Updated Thursday, Aug 11 at 11:31 AM

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? When we want to take advantage of the abundance of vegetables and herbs at the farmer’s markets or, better yet, from our own garden and are wondering what to do with all of it? Well, one thing you can do is pickle them! Not the ‘ work-intensive canning, with all the sterilizing of heavy jars and worrying about air bubbles’ pickling: I’m talking about the quick pickling that is being done by so many great chefs right here in Phoenix and those on all the cooking channels. It’s so easy and will be a great side for anything grilled, as an appetizer topping on baguettes or on the side of a light salad.

Most supermarket pickled vegetables are seasoned with garlic, dill and standard pickling spices. By making your own quick pickles, you can use many different vegetables and fragrant herbs. Seeds you can experiment with include mustard, coriander and fennel. When using your herbs, you can save the twigs and stems and use them to add herb-infused flavor in your quick pickle jar.

Unlike many supermarket pickles, the recipes I have supplied don’t contain artificial food colorings and preservatives and in some there isn’t any refined sugar. The recipes are much easier than canning, which can require hours of intense labor to properly seal pickled produce in hot, sterile canning jars. Doing it the quick way is good for reusing old glass pickle, olive or salsa jars. They don’t need to be sterilized, just clean. The only downside is the vegetables should be consumed within a week or two. But if you’re pleased with the result, that shouldn’t be a problem!

Salt is an important ingredient for pickling and the kind of salt can make a difference in the taste. When canning vegetables, it is usually recommended you use pickling salt or kosher salt. These two salts don’t have iodine or an anti-caking additive that usually clouds the liquid and can turn the pickles dark. Since we are doing quick-pickling, we can use whatever salt you have handy. Experimenting with different salts can add another layer of flavor to your vegetables. There are many hand-harvested artisan salts, including mineral-rich sea salts from France and Hawaii and smoked salts like Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt. Think of the fun you can have using different ones each time you pickle.
 
Pepper can be another intriguing ingredient for your pickling mix. There are so many to choose from depending on what sort of taste you’re going for. The traditional black peppercorn is nice with its dark bite but I find I like the white peppercorn, too, since it has a more subtle ‘pepper’ taste. There’s also the multi-colored peppercorn you can use for another kind of taste. My absolute favorite pepper, however, is the tellicherry peppercorn introduced to me by our Uncle Coz in Texas. This has a milder, yet woodsy taste to it that really adds a whole new level of taste. You can usually find this peppercorn online by googling it or going to Amazon.com (that’s where I got mine through the ‘India Tree’ company).

Another important ingredient for pickling is the pickling seasoning which is a mixture of different spices. There are many blends you can choose from starting with a simple one like allspice berries to a more complex blend that can include mustard seeds, bay leaves, coriander seeds and even herbes de Provence. Like salt and pepper, you can experiment with different blends to get the one you prefer or to just mix it up a bit.

The last ingredient is the vinegar. Most recipes call for apple cider vinegar, which has a natural sweetness to it but you can use whatever vinegar you have on hand. I’ve used champagne vinegar for asparagus and I think it adds an elegant level of taste. But when doesn’t champagne do that, right?

Now for the fun part: Recipes! The ones I’ve supplied are either ones I use myself or those of chefs and gardeners I came across during my research. You will see they all have different techniques when it comes to preparing the vinegar mix and combining it with the vegetables. Some say cool first, some say pour it into the container right away, some say eat within 20 minutes or let it sit in the refrigerator for 1-3 days, 3 being better. What I learned is there’s no set way to do this which gives us a better chance of not messing anything up. A win-win in my book!

Standard Vinegar Mix

This is a common recipe of vinegar mix that you will find all over the different food channel websites or by just googling ‘pickling’. I will list the measurements of each suggested ingredient and then list the different types of each ingredient you can choose from.

2 cups vinegar
2 cups water
2 TBS salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 shakes hot sauce (optional-for those who like a little kick)

Heat ingredients in a saucepan until bubbles start forming. In the meantime, put vegetables in clean jar(s) making sure there’s a little room at the top so the vegetables don’t touch the lid. Cool liquid to room temperature or just pore over the vegetables and herbs until they are completely covered. Cool to room temperature, cover with tight lid and put in refrigerator. Can be consumed after about 20 minutes. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. The longer it sits in the refrigerator during those two weeks, the stronger the ‘pickling’ taste.

Vinegars to be considered:

Apple cider vinegar
White vinegar
White wine vinegar
Champagne vinegar
Red wine vinegar

Salts to be considered:

Table salt
Kosher salt (won’t cloud or turn vegetables dark)
Pickling salt (won’t cloud or turn vegetables dark)
Sea salt
Flavored salts (smoked, etc)

Peppers to be considered:

Black peppercorns
White peppercorns
Mixed colored peppercorns
Tellicherry peppercorns

Vegetables to be considered:

Cucumbers
Red onion
Sweet Vidalia onion
Zucchini
Asparagus
Green beans
Radishes
Kale
Mustard greens

Fresh herbs to be considered:

Oregano
Thyme
Mint
Sage
Dill
Rosemary
Chives
Tarragon

Homemade Herb Pickling MIx

This is great to have on hand and saves time. This can be used in all the recipes I’ve provided by putting one to two tablespoons in the pickling jar-or divided between several smaller ones-then add the veggies and vinegar mix, following the directions in the recipes.  As usual when I am making things, I try to figure out if it can be a nice gift. And this does! You can make up the mix, put it in a jar, throw a ribbon around it and hand it over with a recipe for quick pickling. This would be a great gift around the holidays. If you decide to do that for multiple people, visit your local health food store which usually has spices and dried herbs in bulk and will be much less expensive. If there’s time, try to make up a jar of vegetables to give the occasion an even bigger ‘Wow!’ factor. And who gets tired of that?

2 TBS mustard seeds
4 TBS herbes de Provence
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp bay leaves, dried and shredded
2 TBS coriander seeds
1 tsp dried, crushed red pepper
1 tsp whole cloves

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Put into a clean, glass container and store in a cool, dry place.

Garlic Pickled Kale

To serve, gently rinse the pickled vegetable in a colander and then toss with a little light olive oil or canola oil. Feel free to substitute other sturdy greens, such as mustard greens.

2 cups kale, washed, deveined and shredded
2-4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 TBS kosher salt
1 TBS mustard seeds
1 cup cold water

Tightly pack greens and garlic in one 16-ounce clean glass jar until about 3/4 full. Can separate recipe into smaller jars.

Combine vinegar, salt and mustard seeds in saucepan. Bring to simmer and gently stir until salt dissolves. Remove from heat.

Add cold water to mixture and let cool. Pour cooled liquid in jar to cover greens and garlic. Add more cold water if necessary. Leave room at the top. Refrigerate for about an hour until chilled. Keep refrigerated for two weeks.

Herbal Tomato Pickles

Make sure the tomatoes are firm; otherwise they’ll fall apart when pickled. You can use a combination of different kinds of tomatoes (like regular tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green tomatoes) or you can use only one kind. This is also a great recipe for those luscious (but expensive) heirloom tomatoes!

2 cups tomatoes, vertically quartered
2-4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 cup fresh herbs (dill is nice but any other will be great)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 TBS kosher salt
1 cup cold water
1 TBS fresh juice of lime or lemon (optional)

Place tomato slices, garlic and other herbs in a 16-ounce clean glass jar until about 3/4 full. Can separate ingredients into smaller jars.

Combine vinegar and salt in saucepan. Bring to simmer and gently stir until salt dissolves. Remove from heat.

Add cold water (and optional juice) to mixture and let cool. Pour cooled liquid in jar to cover tomatoes and herbs. Add more cold water if necessary. Refrigerate for about an hour until chilled. Keep refrigerated for two weeks.

Rosemary & Sage Quick Pickles

This recipe also works great with green or yellow zucchini.

1 small red or white onion, thinly sliced
OR 1 cup chives, chopped
2 cups cucumber, sliced
2-4 sprigs rosemary
4-8 sage leaves
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 TBS kosher salt
1 cup cold water

Slice cucumber into 1/4-inch rounds. Tightly pack sliced cucumber and herbs in a 16-ounce clean jar until 3/4 full. Can separate recipe into several jars.

Combine vinegar and salt in saucepan. Bring to simmer and gently stir until salt dissolves. Remove from heat.

Add cold water to this mixture and let cool. Pour cooled liquid in jar to cover cucumbers and herbs. Add more cold water if necessary. Leave room at the top. Refrigerate for about an hour until chilled.

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