Is it weird that I look forward to making pickles possibly more than any other food? Well, If you hear my side of things, maybe it will make more sense. First of all, Pickles are so easy to make at home, there is no reason I can think of to ever buy them from the store. They take so little time to make that by the time you read this blog, you could have already made a batch. And pickling works incredibly well to preserve food in you refrigerator well past its expected shelf life. Now if I haven’t convinced you yet, all I have to say is “flavor”. Hands down, after eating a home-made pickle, it will ruin eating store bought pickles for you forever…So, to compare this one of my favorite movies, The Matrix, you can continue eating the store bought stuff, or open your eyes to the reality of home-making pickles and see how far the rabbit hole really goes!!
Ok well, maybe that was a little dramatic, but the reality is that doing this at home offers a lot of advantages aside from the aforementioned ones. Pickling is a craft that is centuries old, and is one of the first forms of preserving food. Remember, people back then didn’t have refrigeration, so there weren’t many options to keep food edible year round. Although pickling started out of necessity to survive, that necessity has led to something fantastic.
So what exactly is a pickle? Well, technically a pickle refers to anything preserved in a salt water or acidic solution. So corned beef is actually a pickle since it is brined in salty water. That’s, however, a recipe for another day. Now, for simplicity’s sake, there are two types of pickles. The first are lacto-fermented pickles which use bacteria from the environment for preservation. You know these…big green things in the jar. Lacto-fermented pickles have great texture and a very complex flavor and aroma. These, however, take a bit of an investment in time to make. And although it is definitely worth the time, and they are far superior to anything from the store, I will be focusing on the second type; refrigerator pickles. Refrigerator pickles are made using hot acid (such as vinegar) to slightly cook the target vegetables, while also killing bacteria and sealing the vegetables from air. The acid also aids in penetrating the vegetables with seasoning and flavor from herbs or spices so that they are flavorful completely through. This is process is also known as “quick pickling”. Refrigerator pickles have amazing texture and flavor, and will keep well over a month in the refrigerator…but more than likely won’t last that long any way. So here’s the recipe:
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 tbls. cumin seed
2 tbls. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. coriander seed
2 bay leaves
Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced
1 quart of assorted vegetables
The procedure couldn’t be more simple. cut vegetable (or even fruit) matter into pieces no bigger than half an inch and put into a container big enough to easily contain. place the rest of the ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Immediately pour over the vegetables (or fruit) and put into the refrigerator to cool. Once cold, enjoy! If you are interested in the science of this I would tell you, but..well actually, I am going to tell you. The hot liquid is cooking the vegetables (or fruit) which allows the acid to penetrate completely through. But by immediately chilling, we are still left with a pleasant bite that is not too hard and deliciously crisp. Now this recipe is something that I have perfected over the years and will give great results, but the great thing about doing this yourself is that you also control the ingredients and have the freedom to add or subtract or make substitutions to this recipe as you see fit. The only thing I recommend keeping the same is the ratio of sugar, salt, and vinegar. But then again, who knows…subtracting a little salt and adding a little more sugar may yield a sweeter, or ..dare I say…dessert pickle!?
Although these pickles are great for salads, sandwiches, dips, etc. I have to say my favorite thing to do is just eat them as is. So, play around with this recipe and give it a try, I promise you will not be disappointed. Leave me a comment and let me know what you came up with!
..did I mention that you could use fruit…?