Sunday, February 15, 2015

Trending- Pickle All The Things

Sorry....sorry..... I know, more food trends. I can't help it! Besides always looking for something interesting and delicious to cook, I am also always watching food trends. Who wants to be a year behind the eight ball? Not me! I missed the kale trend and that was a lesson learned. 

I have been reading lots and lots of year end wrap-ups and forecasts for the coming year in food trends- what's in, what's out, what's the new super food, the new kale, the new hip dessert. A lot of writers were poking a little fun at hipsters and how they drive some of these trends. One of them caught my attention- as a home preserver and gardener I can see myself becoming equally obsessed- pickling. 

Maybe not an authentic Chicago Italian Beef but the
giardiniera was just as delicious!!!
As a home preserver who is focused on shelf-stable foods, I tend to stick to the book and not venture into untested recipes and so on (pretty sure I never want a visit from Mr. Botulism) so in that regard a pickle is a pickle is a pickle. However....... if we want to venture into quick pickling, or fridge pickling, hey the world is wide open. If you can shove it in a jar, you can pretty much pickle it!

All kinds of goodness and flavors waiting for me to sample
Quick pickles are so incredibly easy- no lugging out big huge pots and boiling gallons of water and plucking jars out of boiling cauldrons. Oh heck no- a clean jar, something to put in it, and a brine and you're in business.

Carrot pickles have a sweet and sour taste with a hint of spice
A while back I was watching an episode of Haylie Duff's Real Girl's Kitchen in which she and a friend visited a rooftop farm for fresh peppers and then headed to Brooklyn Brine for some homemade pickled peppers. The girls packed their jars with beautiful fresh peppers and topped off with a basic pickling brine. She added a pretty darn generous splash of whiskey to her pickled peppers!! Since we're talking about fridge pickles here, we don't have to worry about a lil bit o' hooch messing up our acid balance.

Fresh and colorful
What can you make into pickles? Basically anything. Raw or cooked vegetables or fruits. Cooked meat or eggs- like the big bar jars of pickled eggs and chubby sausages floating in brine. We are going to make a few pickles that are pretty versatile- serve as part of a relish tray, as a condiment on sandwiches or salads, in a Bloody Mary. The best part about these recipes- SWITCH IT UP! They don't have to be shelf stable so use your favorite veggies, herbs, flavor of vinegar- experiment!

Carrot Pickles.  Your relish trays will never be the same.

1 lb carrot sticks
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
1 stick cinnamon
1 tb whole cloves

I prefer carrot sticks but you can use baby carrots if you like
Precook carrots for 5-10 mins in boiling water. Drain and set aside. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to boil. Pack the carrots in a jar (they should all fit in a quart jar) with the cloves and cinnamon stick and pour the hot brine over. Pop in the fridge and chill at least 3 days before serving.

Crunchy and sweet
Pickled condiments are a great addition to your fridge stockpile. Think beyond the humble dill burger chip. Pickled onions, pickled veggie mixes and shredded slaw-like relishes pack a flavor punch and bring a tangy crunch to whatever dish you pile them on. Our pickled onions are absolutely delicious on burgers, brats and roast beef sandwiches. 

Pickled Grilled Red Onions. Red onions are the best choice but you can use any onion you like.

4 small or 2 large red onions
olive oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
salt and pepper

Slice onion thickly and brush the cut sides with olive oil. Keep the onions together as much as possible- you can use toothpicks if you need to. 

I halved my slices to make jarring up easier
Fire up your grill or use a grill pan to char onions well. Use the highest heat you can so you get the char fast without overcooking the onion. In a pinch you can use the broiler, heated to the highest setting. Let cool then cut slices in half crosswise. I cut mine in half before charring. Pack into jars. 

Red onions with a nice red wine tang. Yum!
Combine wine vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper and heat to dissolve sugar. Pour over onions. Pop in fridge overnight.  Try not to eat them all in one sitting. 

Getting some good ideas yet? You aren't limited to just vegetables. Pickled eggs, pickled sausages (fully cooked), and pickled cheeses- use firm cheese that can be cubed and don't plan on keeping them around too long- are great as quick appetizers or snacks and make awesome garnishes for a Bloody Mary Bar.

Pickled Asparagus. Make it a jar at a time or make several for gifts.

For each quart jar-
1 lb fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
6 scallions, roots trimmed
2 slices lemon or lime
2 cloves garlic, bruised/smashed
2 tablespoons mixed pickling spice 
1 dried long red pepper (such as cayenne)

Trim the asparagus and scallions to fit in a wide mouth quart jar. Pack them in the jar, tips up and onion bulbs down. Hide the garlic bulbs in there, tuck the lemon slices on the sides and stick the red pepper in the jar. Sprinkle with pickling spice.

In a saucepan heat 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 cups vinegar and 1/2 cup sugar, til dissolved. Pour over asparagus. Pop the lid on and place in the fridge. Wait at least 48 hours before using, and you can pull that pepper out and discard it after the first day for a lighter level of heat. 

Those asparagus- YUM! Totally belong in your Bloody Mary but I like to eat them just the way they are. They are perfect for salads too. Delicious! Of course, as a Midwesterner, I would be in big trouble if I didn't include a recipe for the classic Italian pickled relish, Giardiniera. Love love love this stuff, and since it's not processed like dill pickles, the veggies always stay crisp and I don't have to worry about that olive oil that MUST be included.

Tangy, crunchy, and a little bit spicy
Super Quick Giardiniera. The classic condiment for Chicago Style Italian Beef is also a great addition to salads, as a tapenade or mix into dips.

Finely chop the veggies, like in a relish
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped cauliflower
2-4 tablespoons chopped jalapeno (or more if you like it hot)*
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 cup chopped pimiento stuffed olives
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
pinch crushed red pepper
several grinds black pepper
1 cup vinegar
1 cup olive oil

*I did not have fresh jalapenos, so I substituted from my dehydrated pepper stash- I used 3 dried Serrano chilies, crushed, instead. You can use any hot pepper you like. If I made this during the summer months I would substitute hot banana peppers for sure.

That new knife is getting quite a workout this week.
Combine all ingredients. Chill 48 hours.

Veggie love!
Pickling doesn't end there. Pickled peppers, relishes, chow chow, I could type for hours and hours.... Remember, the truly genius thing about quick pickles- you don't have to work out the chemistry- just find your favorites and get pickling!


  1. I was curious about your carrot pickle recipe. I notice in the list of ingredients there's no mention of water (other than to boil the carrots), however your instructions state "Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to boil.". Did you intend to advise to boil the sugar and vinegar? I'd greatly appreciate your guidance. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for pointing that out! That was a BIG typo - I have added the missing 1 cup of water.