Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Final Flurry of Pickling

It's been a race to get my Pickling Powerpoint ready for presentation at the local historical society this morning. Lots of pickling and photos of pickles. I think we have enough pickles to last us through the winter. Some of the best pickles are the easiest, such as these Middle Eastern-style pickled turnips with beets. They simply marinate in a big jar with a vinegar brine, taking on a pinkish hue from the beets harvested from our garden. We brought some of these pickled turnips to a recent presidential debate party and everyone fell for them--even those who normally don't like turnips. (Well, they hardly taste like turnips after they've pickled.)

Some non-traditional pickles fall into the category of "quick." These fresh chunks of pineapple are tossed with mint leaves, then submerged in a brine made with cider vinegar, brown sugar, cinnamon and fresh cranberries. They can be eaten almost immediately. Pack them into pint jars and stash in the fridge. They'd be a great condiment for the next pork roast, no?

To demonstrate the classic method of pickling with alcohol, I made these pears preserved in Calvados. I have fond memories of bicycling through Normandy (a lifetime ago, it seems) where everything is made of apples, from the crepes to the cider to the brandy. Calvados is highly refined. Another local branch water--chouchen--is sweet and extremely potent. I'll be saving these sultry looking pears for a special occasion, perhaps a holiday dessert buffet.

These are red onions drenched in a brine of vinegar, chipotle en adobo, garlic, orange zest and mescal. Very easily assembled, this condiment is ready to consume the next day but will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. I see it in a taco stuffed with pork carnitas, or perhaps on the next barbecue sandwich.

These pickled mushrooms remind me of our wedding, back in the last century. My wife and I made most of the food ourselves--mostly pickles, cheeses and other preserved foods that we were able to start weeks ahead, then present on a grand buffet with a basket of assorted breads. It was just the thing for a backyard October feast.

When you are growing your own food--sometimes more than you can possibly consume--pickling presents itself as a vital option. We had four jalapeno plants that produced an abundance of peppers. I recently pulled the plants to create a new garlic bed and found myself looking at two pints worth of peppers. Preserved in a vinegar brine, they will make a nice condiment for spicy foods.

Finally, I am occasionally reminded that you can pickle almost anything, including meats and seafood. Pickled pig's feet, corned beef, pickled herring and of coarse gravlax, or pickled salmon.

The process in fact is extremely simple if you can get your hands on two or three pounds of salmon. Create a dry mix of coarse salt, sugar and cracked pepper and spread it thickly over a fillet of salmon, along with heaps of chopped dill. Make a sandwich with a second fillet, cover the whole thing with a sheet of aluminum foil and weight it down with a big can of hominy. Place in the refrigerator for three or four days, turning the salmon sandwich a couple of times daily. In the end, you will have delicious gravlax. Cut into thin slices and serve with black bread and your favorite, ice-cold vodka.
We are thinking we need to throw a pickle party. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I attended your talk today. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences! I'm trying to figure out ways to get the most out of my community garden plot, and canning seems to be the way to do it. I do fear that making sauerkraut or kimchi in a small apartment might end my marriage if it goes awry. Maybe I can bum some space in a basement at a friend's house if I promise to give them some of the final product. :) I'll be a regular reader from now on!

Maureen said...

Love the memory of the turnip pickles from my days in Iran.

Yes, a party. A plan the inauguration party!

Emily said...

Ed, your pickling bug has bitten me. I'm obsessed. One tip if you haven't tried it. I pickled some Asian mustard greens today on a tip from a market friend; am still waiting to see how they turned out, but I have high expectations!

Jaemus said...

Thanks for the great talk yesterday, it was very inspiring and informative. I was given a Japanese tabletop pickle pot as a present this summer (from my brother-in-law, who lives in Tokyo) and now feel ready to "press" it into service, pun intended!

Anonymous said...

I've been corning beef for the last two years. Why have I never done this with salmon?? Bless you.

Anonymous said...

Help! My kim chee is succumbing to kahm (kham?). I skim off the layer of goo, and it's completely back in a day or two. Is there anything I can do to save this batch? I'm afraid when I decant it into jars, I won't be able to skim it off at all.

Ed Bruske said...

Heather, I happen to like the aroma of fermenting vegetables. But I think this is an individual taste. I have a feeling you will find a place to do your fermenting where it won't be an issue.

Maureen, love to hear about your pickled turnip memories from Iran. Who knew? I don't know why ethnic restaurants don't make more of a point of featuring traditional pickles. Everybody's got some.

Emily, I saw pickled greens at the pickled festival in New York. Especially Asian greens. Definitely something to try.

Jaemus, I want one of those pickle presses. I could totally lose myself in Japanese pickles.

Anon, corning beef is high on my agenda. Do try the gravlax--couldn't be simpler.

Emily, I'm sorry but the issue you are referring to with your kimchi--is above my pay grade. I just haven't experience a problem like that, either with sauerkraut or kimchi. Please keep us posted if you can find out more.