Thursday, July 17, 2014

Eat Your Vegetables: Quick Pickles

Determined to eat well, we tramp off to the market, buy handfuls of luscious vegetables, and then we stuff the things into the crisper. Later, the once beautiful produce is wilted and no longer looks appetizing. The old veggies are composted, tossed, or maybe made into soup?

Having trouble keeping your vegetables in the edible state? Want another way to add vegetables to your diet? Japan to the rescue!

Pickles of varying types are traditionally eaten at every meal in Japan, yes, that includes breakfast. I had previously thought of pickling to be about cucumbers and water baths, but there is more to pickling, and quick pickling is a handy food preservation method. My cooking teacher, Nansai Sensei, demonstrated how to make quick pickles using a variety of vegetables all mixed together in a jar. This is a variation of her recipe then modified for the American pantry.

You can make and eat quick pickles the same day, though they do have a more intense flavor over time. It allows fresh produce to be stored in a ready to eat state that lasts beyond the usual day or two, and it adds texture and the zingy taste of vinegar to your palate.

Vegetables are best when cut into uniform shapes which is helpful for absorbing flavor. Some vegetables, such as cauliflower, beets, broccoli, carrots, and green beans, need a quick boil (1 to 2 minutes) followed by immersion into cold water to stop the cooking process, drain, and place into the hot pickling juice.  (TIP: Cauliflower will stay whiter if boiled with a slice of lemon).

Improvise with spices, use different types of vinegar, and tweak the recipe to your liking. Store quick pickles in a glass jar in the fridge up to 10 days. Now you can add vegetables to your lunch or easily eat them as a snack right out of the fridge. Heck, I serve them at parties. Combine the pickled vegetables with fresh vegetables for a textural and flavorful contrast in a salad.

Enjoy!


Eat Your Vegetables Quick Pickles
Yield 4 pints or 2 quarts

Useful Equipment
Clean glass jar with lid, pint or quart size

Ingredients for Pickling Juice
Water, 1 quart (4 cups)
White Vinegar, 2 cups
Sugar, 1/3 cup
Pickling or Kosher Salt, 2 Tbsp

Spice Options
Pickling Spice Mix, 1 tsp per pint jar
Dried Hot Red Pepper, 1 per jar (optional)
Bay Leaf, 1 per jar (optional)
Clove of Garlic, 1 per jar (optional)
Mustard Seeds, 1/2 tsp per jar (optional)
Ball Pickle Crisp, 1/8 tsp per pint jar, 1/4 tsp per quart jar (optional for cucumbers, beets)

Vegetable Options
  • Cucumber, wash, cut in half, cut to fit into jar
  • Carrots, wash, peel, cut in sticks, boil 1-2 minutes, plunge into cool water, drain
  • Cauliflower, wash, chop into pieces, boil 1-2 minutes with slice of lemon, plunge into cool water, drain
  • Turnips, wash, quarter, boil 1-2 minutes, plunge into cool water, drain
  • Beets, wash, chop, 1/4-inch slice, boil 1-2 minutes, plunge into cool water, drain (store by themselves-- turns the juice pink)
  • Green Beans, trim ends, wash, boil 1-2 minutes, plunge into cool water, drain
  • Daikon Radish, peel, slice into half moons, boil 1-2 minutes, plunge into cool water, drain
  • Asparagus, trim ends, wash, chop, boil 1-2 minutes, plunge into cool water, drain
  • Garlic, boil 1-2 minutes, remove peel and separate cloves
Directions
  1. Clean and prep vegetables.
  2. Add pickling spices and vegetables to jar(s). 
  3. Bring pickling juice ingredients to boil over medium heat, stir until sugar and salt dissolve.
  4. Pour hot liquid over prepared vegetables in clean jars. 
  5. Add pickle crisp (if using) to each jar of cucumbers, beets, etc.
  6. Label jar.
  7. Wait about 30-45 minutes before eating. Store in the fridge up to 10 days.