Adventures in Pickling (Garlic, Mushrooms and, yes, Pickled Strawberries)

This April is the one-year anniversary of the San Diego Food Swap, a fun foodie event that I organize locally. It’s a great way to meet great cooks, practice your cooking skills, and get rid of surplus in your preserving pantry. This month I decided to make a few different pickles.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to step up my garlic game. Sure, roasted and even smoked whole heads of garlic are tiny blobs of heaven, but what about pickling them for extra punch? Preserved and Pickled has this delicious one, and I adapted it with a little extra white vinegar.

Pickled Garlic Cloves

(Try to keep the cloves whole, but trim off the hard ends.)

  • 2 Cups White Vinegar
  • ¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • ¼ Cup Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • ½ Teaspoon Coriander Seeds
  • ½ Teaspoon Mixed Peppercorns
  • 2-3 Small Dried Red Chiles

Try to keep the cloves whole, but it’s OK if they break a little. Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then fill sterilized mason jars and seal in a hot water bath for about 10-15 minutes.

I also did a version of my friend Belinda’s pickled red onions, which are a zingy compliment to pretty much any sandwich, wrap or burger. I added a bay leaf and a little more sugar.

I think my favorite of these are the pickled some cremini mushrooms. Knit and Nosh posted a fantastic recipe for these cheese plate darlings, and once again, I take a great recipe and make it my own with a little more spice — I used jalapeño instead of bell pepper and chili flakes, and added a little extra red onion.

Pickled Cremini Mushrooms

(Try these on your next cheese plate!)

  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, washed and cut into quarters
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup diced jalapeño
  • 1/2 cup onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorn

Quarter (or halve the smaller) mushrooms, and dice the peppers and onions. Add to a pot with the vinegar, salt, and water, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars with peppercorns, and seal in a hot water bath for 10 minutes to seal.

I found this fantastic pickled strawberry recipe on The Daily Meal, and adapted it with different spices (star anise and a little coriander).

Spicy Strawberry Pickles

(This is a recipe for one big jar; adapt as necessary.)

  • 6-7 strawberries, stems removed
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 sliced or halved jalapeño or serrano pepper
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole coriander

Slice or halve the strawberries and place into sterilized mason jar(s). Add the coriander, pepper and salt, while bringing the vinegar and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Pour the hot brine into the jar(s) and place the two-piece lid. Give it at least three days to get to its full pickle flavor. Keep refrigerated.

Advertisements

Zydeco Beans – New Orleans in a Jar

A few weeks ago I attended a pickling class at an organic farm here in San Diego, and I decided to sample everything available there on principle even if I wasn’t sure I would like it. I had never had a pickled green bean before. I sampled one available there, and within a few minutes realized I could not put down the jar. They were simply amazing.

Very crisp and fresh, spicy and a little tangy, and, despite the fact that they are used regularly in New Orleans as a Bloody Mary cocktail garnish, perfect to simply snack on by themselves. These are a close relative of the traditional dilly bean, the only difference is that a zydeco bean has yellow mustard seeds and usually a little bit more hot pepper.

I made a few jars of these for the San Diego Food Swap today and they were a HUGE hit. I noticed that people began to congregate around my table a lot, and they all managed to sample the zydeco beans a few times before we swapped for anything. I also brought some lovely dill cucumber pickles, but once people sampled these, they didn’t want anything else.

Plus, they ARE pretty.

This recipe is from Linda Zeidrich’s book, “The Joy of Pickling.” If you’re even a little serious about preserving I highly recommend both of her books (she also has an excellent book about jams and sweet preserves). Her pickling book is over 400 pages of recipes for literally every type of produce … even ones you would never dream of pickling. If you just have a garden and want to try new ways to use the mounds of produce on your hands, please invest in Linda’s books.

Zydeco Beans

(from “The Joy of Pickling” by Linda Zeidrich)

  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 6 tsp whole yellow mustard seeds (I added it to a mix of whole black peppercorns, coriander, cumin and a few cloves)
  • 3 lbs young, tender beans, trimmed to 4 inches if needed
  • 6-12 small fresh or dried hot peppers
  • 6 dill heads (optional)
  • 3 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp pickling salt

Into 6 pint jars, put 1 sliced garlic clove and 1 tsp mustard seeds. Pack the beans vertically into the jars. To each jar, add 1 to 2 hot peppers and a dill head. In a saucepan, bring to a boil the vinegar, water, and salt. Pour the hot liqiud over the beans, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Close the jars and process for 4 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Enjoy!

In a pickle down at the farm

This weekend, I attended a great pickling class at Wild Willow Farms outside of San Diego, a lovely organic farm and educational center.  I learned many things and will list them in no particular order of importance:

1. ) Refrigerator pickles are quite literally the easiest thing you can ever make. Ever. Period. If you don’t need to seal it in a mason jar and store it on a cupboard shelf, that means you don’t need to worry about the acid/pH levels, and you can simply make what tastes good to you, put it in the fridge, and eat it at your convenience.

Before: Cut up veggies and herbs, arrange artfully. Use whatever fresh herbs and spices you like.

After: Brine is one quart of water to 2 tbsp. kosher salt. (You can also do this brine with vinegar if you prefer a vinegar-y pickle to a salty one.) Refrigerate and enjoy. Keep it refrigerated. No really. That's it.

2) Classes are not enough — if you want to learn how to preserve, pickle, can, etc., learn the basics of pressure canning vs. hot-water bath canning, as well as acid and pH-levels. It’s not complicated to learn and misunderstanding the essentials may cause people who eat your food to get sick or your food to spoil before its time.

I do not claim to be an expert at … well, anything …. but I will refer you to the experts who can educate you better than I ever could. You can read the USDA guidelines for safe canning here and a great summary here. Basically, if something is high in acid (say, pickles, jellies, jams), they can be safely sealed in a hot water bath, which is literally placing the filled mason jar into a pot of water and boiling it. Things like tomatoes, soups, sauces, and other foods that are low in acid MUST BE sealed in a pressure canner. If you are unsure about the pH levels, err on the side of caution and pressure-seal the jars. Better to be safe than sorry, that’s my motto.

3.) I like pickled things way more than I ever thought I would. Maybe it’s because as I get older and my tastes change, I eat better food also. I still don’t care for a store-bought pickle, but the pickled green beans and garlic-dill refrigerator pickles I have tried lately are killer.

Nom nom nom.

4.) You would be (or at least, I was) surprised at how many things there are to be pickled. If you think about it in a historical sense, you know that before there was refrigeration, pretty much everything was either fresh or fermented/pickled in some way. (Think about it, when you can only grow vegetables for a few months out of the year, if that, you rely on preserving and saving your crops.) My favorite recipe from this class is for pickled figs, which make a delicious and fragrant treat.

Pickled Figs

Recipe courtesy of Mariah Gayler at Wild Willow Farms.

  • 3-4 lbs. fresh figs
  • 3 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cup sage honey (sage has the best flavor, but any honey works)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup shelled and halved walnuts (optional)
  • 3 tbsp. peppercorns
  • sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
  • strips and/or pieces of orange zest

Cut the stem off of each fig, and prick each one with a fork or a toothpick (this helps the fruit to absorb the liquid and not float when you put it in a jar). Place figs in a large pot and cover with boiling water. Gently swish the figs around to clean, and drain the water out (note: sometimes homegrown figs can be extra sticky and may need two rinses). Combine vinegar, water, sugar and honey in a large nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Carefully add the figs to the simmering syrup, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Add walnuts.

And it smells delicious!

Arrange the figs in jars , and add the herbs and zest to the individual jars. (Make it look pretty.) Then carefully ladle the syrup into each jar, leaving about 1/2-inch of headroom. Seal the jars for 15 minutes in a hot water bath.

5.) Kimchi is a mystery to me. I learned from “The Joy of Pickling,” a great primer on pickles by my home-canning heroine Linda Ziedrich, that Koreans eat more pickles per capita than any other nationality, mostly because of their love for kimchi. I know that kimchi is cabbage as well as generally anything from the Brassiceae family (think cabbage, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower), and that the elements of the food in this family create a bacteria that pickles the vegetables after fermenting over time. The instructor at my class had a pot of cabbage, kale, and a myraid of other veggies, kosher salt and spices, but no liquid, and as it gets pushed down the liquid comes out of the vegetables and ferments.

Kimchi, fermenting away.

It’s hard to reconcile the act of letting something sit at room temperature for a couple of days while (good) bacteria swishes around and reacts in there, but the spicy tang of kimchi is worth it. I have never made it but plan to do some recon and investigate what spices and flavors I want in my kimchi, then I will try some recipes and make some for myself. Stay tuned to find out what delicious shenanigans I come up with next.

Teeny little eggplants. Aren't they cute?

6.) In order to maintain the crisp deliciousness of a carrot, cucumber or green bean, most pickles are made with fresh and uncooked produce. There are a few exceptions, though, like eggplant — whose bitterness would make an icky pickle indeed if it weren’t blanched before pickling.

I got some flatbread and tabbouleh with your NAME on it.

 Quick Pickled Eggplant with Basil

Recipe from Linda Ziedrich’s “The Joy of Pickling.” We used a lot of her recipes during this class. I highly recommend both of her books (she is also the author of “The Joys of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves.”)

  • 1 quart water
  • 1 tbsp. plus one tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 medium eggplants (about 3 1/4 lbs.), cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh basil (frozen or refrigerated pesto also works)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In a saucepan, bring the water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add half of the eggplant cubes and simmer them for about 5 minutes, until they are tender. Put them in a colander and cook the remaining eggplant cubes the same way. Add them to the colander and rinse and drain the eggplant. In a bowl, mix the cooked eggplant with the vinegar, basil, pepper, garlic, and remaining salt. Cover or place in jars and refrigerate at least 8 hours. Add the olive oil just before serving (although there will be some liquid in the mixture).

Spicy pickled carrots – Lovely success

I love it when things are this easy. 5 cups of vinegar, one cup of water, a half-cup of sugar, a variety of spices and a pile of lovely-looking vegetables.  I have carrots, jalapenos, garlic, onion, radishes, chives, bell pepper and lemon.

Slice them and arrange them as artistically as possible in a variety of jars (I used a variety of sizes also).

Sprinkle kosher salt over the vegetables. I added whole black peppercorns, dried red pepper, whole coriander, and a bay leaf (the larger jars got 2 leaves).

Then I filled the jars with the brine and sealed the jars. Eventually the radishes make the whole mixture turn a reddish tint, but they make decorative and delicious gifts.

I gave them to the guests at my 4th of July party and brought a large jar to a housewarming.