Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Indian Pickled Cauliflower

Part of my upcoming Powerpoint presentation on pickling at the local historical society focuses on international pickles. People are fairly familiar with things like Korean kimchi and French cornichon by now but I don't think our appreciation of pickles from other countries is nearly wide or deep enough.

Pickling has been practiced in Asia for thousands of years. The Indians love their pickles and you can count on them to devise recipes with the usual mixes of exotic spices. I found this one in The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, by Yamuna Devi. These pickles use a somewhat different process, being tossed with roasted cumin, salt and turmeric, then covered with mustard oil and left out in the sun for two weeks to cure.

I know--the sun is a bit low in the sky these days to be making sun pickles. But I was anxious to try them. I'm sure they'll work great as a condiment with our next curry dinner.

To make 1 quart:

1 1/2 quarts water

florets from 1 small head cauliflower (about 16 ounces)

3-inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons dry-roasted cumin seeds

2 teaspoons pickling salt (or additive-free sea salt)

1 teaspoon turmeric

pinch cayenne

1 1/2 cups mustard oil (or substitute sesame oil)

Cut cauliflower florets into bite-size pieces. Bring water to a boil in a heavy pot. Add ginger and cauliflower and blanch for one minute. Drain, then spread ginger and cauliflower on a baking sheet covered with a tea towel. Set aside in a warm spot for one hour to dry.

Mix cumin, salt, turmeric and cayenne. In a large mixing bowl, toss spices with ginger and cauliflower. Pack cauliflower into a sterilized quart jar.

In a small saucepan over moderate heat, heat mustard oil to smoking point. (If using sesame oil, it only needs to heated.) Cook oil for 4 minutes then pour it over the cauliflower. Secure a non-metallic led on the jar (a paper towel with a rubber band with do.)

Set the jar in the sun for 14 days, bringing it indoors every night. Give the jar a shake at least every day. Refrigerate the pickles after opening.

Note: Mustard oil can be found in Indian groceries. To dry-roast cumin seeds, I simply toss them in a small, cast-iron skillet over moderate heat. Be careful not to burn them. They are done when they become very aromatic.

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