Wednesday Food: Pickled Vegetables
In my first post last December, I admitted to a preference of salty over sweet. Really it’s more of an insatiable craving than preference over something else, but at the end of the day my immediate move is to the ever-present pickle jar. I admit to being a poor critic of pickles as anything with vinegar and salt is satisfying, but this homemade approach really stands superior to anything purchased in the store.
Like the hot sauce and ketchup from recent posts, brining and jarring these vegetables is an attempt to preserve the bounty of summer so that when snow is beating down on my face and “wintry-mix” is all the future holds, something will keep me from walking off my balcony.
Vegetables, eggs, cabbage for sauerkraut, mushrooms, herring, fruit (watermelon rinds especially), all make excellent candidates for pickling. The magic of the process is that although everything becomes sour and salty, individual flavors remain distinguishable. The celery and carrots retain their flavor and crunch, garlic maintains its bite and peppers their heat, and all are accented by the spices in which they are soaked.
There are three basic steps to pickling anything– preparing that which is to be preserved (in this case blanching the vegetables), making the brine, and sterilizing the container. This recipe follows exactly that process. I recommend reusing rather than purchasing a bunch of Mason jars. Most of my collection is comprised of salsa and jam jars, but anything with an air-tight seal works.
By the way remember when this happened two weeks after I moved into a new apartment? Well it turns out the owners of the building could not afford to tear out the molded drywall that soon developed, and we have been sleeping in the kitchen ever since. Because there was no end in sight to the repairs, we decided to move and found a better suited (and non-toxic) apartment across the street where the owners compost their food waste and rival my love for pickles. Come Sunday I will have had my third move and fourth apartment in less than twelve months. I think I’ll go open a jar of pickles…
- 1 head of cauliflower broken into 1-1 1/2 inch florets
- 2 bell peppers of any color, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 4 large carrots, 1/2 inch thick and cut on the bias
- 4 celery ribs, cut into 1 inch thick slices (feel free to use the leaves)
- 1 jar of small black olives
- 1 head of garlic, peeled
- 2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 tbs kosher salt
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tsp dry red pepper flakes
- 1-2 tbs pickling spice (available in any grocery store)
Begin with the brine. Bring all the bring ingredients to the boil, stirring occasionally to be sure the sugar dissolves. Let stand until cool.
Have ready a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking; bring a large pot of unsalted water to the boil. Add the vegetables in batches until crisp-tender, or follow these cooking times:
4 min each: cauliflower, bell peppers, and carrots
2 min each: celery and garlic
After straining, spread vegetables out onto paper towels. While the vegetables dry a few minutes sterilize your clean jars and lids by boiling them. Using tongs, remove the jars, fill with an assortment of vegetables, and fill to the top with brine (a ladle works well for this).
Let stand at least 5 days, and for up to a year.
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