Time to Make The Pickles

TIME TO MAKE THE PICKLES!

BY JENNIFER CARDEN

Pickling, and its “sister” process, fermenting, have long been used to preserve foods. Before the arrival of refrigeration and artificial preservatives, these cooking techniques were critical to ensuring safe food—and even survival during the long winter months—for many civilizations.

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In addition to vegetables and fruits (think pickled peaches and watermelon rind), meat, too, was often pickled. For this article let’s just stick with veggies—I’m not feeling that adventurous.

Every culture has its own version of the pickle. Kimchi is the pungent Korean fermented vegetable mix; the Filipino version, achara or atsara, calls for green papaya and ginger; and what would hot dogs and pastrami be without German sauerkraut?

My pickle pick growing up was the kosher half sour. I loved going to the deli and picking out a giant one.

When home gardens and farmers’ markets are overflowing with end-of-the-summer and early-fall produce, my thoughts turn to how to capture this bounty and prolong its enjoyment. Pickling is an easy and fun way to do that. And, it’s a great way to get your kids into the kitchen with you.

There are hundreds of pickle versions to choose from, and more than a few ways to accomplish the pickling. I like this easy way, especially to get kids interested and involved. It is fast and will hold their attention from prepping to pickling to eating. It is especially fun to start with a special trip to the farmers’ market to choose your vegetables.

The tangy results of your efforts will be appreciated by the cooks as well as by friends and family members fortunate enough to come to your table. A beautiful jar of handmade pickles also makes a very special gift. Gifting their very own pickles is bound to make a kid feel proud. Homemade tags for your jars make these pickles even more personal. So, grab a few Mason jars and get to pickling while the bounty is in full swing!

Jennifer Carden is a chef, author and stylist. She is dedicated to helping families get excited about food, and with her creative recipes she inspires kids and adults alike. Her book,The Toddler Café (Chronicle Books, 2008), has received acclaim for its innovative approach to feeding children. She is the co-founder/ instructor/partner of Dirt to Dine Adventure Camp for Budding Chefs at Napa’s Connolly Ranch and a regular contributor to numerous cookbooks, publications and websites. Her blog is PlayfulPantry.wordpress.com/

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Photos: by Matthew Carden

Sweet and Sour Pickled Veggies

This recipe is adaptable to your tastes. Just taste the brine as you go and adjust for sweet or sour.

I do recommend using plum vinegar, as it gives a distinct flavor. You can find it in the Asian food aisle in most markets. You can also add herbs like fennel flowers, thyme, fresh dill or a tiny hint of rosemary. The finished pickles can be diced and added to tacos or salads, or eaten plain.

Yield: About 8 cups

INGREDIENTS

1  1/2 pounds organic carrots, washed and sliced into 3-inch sticks (peeling is optional)

1/2 pound organic green beans, washed but kept whole

1/2 pound organic radishes, washed and cut into quarters

1 medium organic red onion, finely sliced into half moons

2 cups water (in addition to the cooking water)

3/4 cup vinegar of your choice (I recommend 1 part rice vinegar and 2 parts Ume plum vinegar)

1/2 cup or up to 1 cup sugar

Handful of fresh herbs of your choice (Note: If using dried herbs, use very sparingly.)

1 tablespoon plus 1. teaspoons kosher salt

TO PREPARE

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add carrots, green beans and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring the water back to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Drain the vegetables and immediately rinse them with very cold water to stop the cooking.

Place carrots, green beans, radishes and onions decoratively into about five 8-ounce Mason jars (or fewer, larger Mason jars, as you wish).

Add water, vinegar(s), sugar and remaining salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the sugar has been completely dissolved, carefully pour the hot liquid over the vegetables in the jars. Let cool to room temperature, cover the jars with their screw-top lids and store in the refrigerator.

These are best after at least a day in the vinegar, and will keep for up to 2 weeks.

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