Thursday, July 9, 2015

Yes, Pickles!

It is the summer, cucumbers are bountiful and cheap, and eating is casual and often grilled, so the question is:  why aren't you making pickles?

If you aren't a pickle lover, read no further, but if you are, there is literally nothing easier to make yourself and to enjoy, if you want, almost immediately.  Pickles are in almost every culture's food for two simple reasons: 1) pickling is a way of preserving and extending the life of vegetables (or fruits) and 2) the acidic nature of pickles is a compliment to meats and other proteins.  From the sour pickles of Germany to the stinky kimchee of Korea to the elaborate array of pickles in India, they are literally everywhere around the globe.

All you need to make pickles are the following:
Photo courtesy of

A refrigerator
sugar (maybe)
a few herbs and spices of your choosing
jars, bowls, containers of your choosing

No special ingredients or equipment; just what you've got, unless you are looking to make a particular flavor.  And, wait, not even cucumbers.  You can pickle just about anything!  Pickled onions are great on sandwiches or in egg salad.  That zucchini and yellow squash you've got growing in your garden will pickle nicely.  So will green tomatoes (or ripe ones).  Or watermelon rind.

Still imtimidated?  Start simple.  Start with David Chang, the chef behind Momofuku.  To make his "quick pickles," you simply toss, say sliced cucumbers, with sugar and salt in a 2:1 ratio (probably about 1 tablespoon to 1/2 tablespoon for every couple of cups of sliced cucumbers), let them sit for about 15 minutes, pour off the liquid that accumulates, and you've got pickles!  Tasty ones!  And not even any vinegar.  That will keep in the refrigerator.

Many people think pickles mean canning aka boiling a brine and pouring it over the vegetables and sterilizing and sealing special jars and lids and then simmering them in water for  10-15 minutes before you pull them out with special tongs and then listening for the distinctive "pop" that tells you the jars have sealed.

Yeah, you can do it that way.  But they'll suck.

That is, unless you like soft, mushy pickles.  I don't.  I like a crispy snap to my pickle, a certain turgidity that only comes from making refrigerator pickles.  These babies you can start eating the day after you put them in and you can keep eating them for another month, if they last that long.  Sure, they won't be as crisp on day 30, but they will have a deeper flavor and will still crunch.

My current go-to refrigerator dill pickles are these, from  Her addition of coriander seeds to the springs of fresh dill and garlic and mustard seeds and a few pepper flakes are really easy and flavorful.  I've made several batches this summer, have given some away (winning someone else's inner-family pickle competition), and am happy to see them whenever I open my refrigerator.

For a sweeter pickle, I use David Chang's master recipe (not the quick pickles above), which makes a milder (because of the rice vinegar), less sweet pickle than the ones you might buy in a store.  Great with grilled Asian food.

If you get into pickling big time, then, sure, you'll want to try to make the kind of fermented pickles that your grandmother never made (mine did, but I'm assuming you're younger) or that might come with your sandwich at any great deli, but my efforts with those kinds of pickles have never yielded the results I'd hoped for.  So I just reach into the fridge.  What are you waiting for?  Get pickling!

1 comment:

troutking said...

Plus pickles have no calories!