A Chef's Insight: Pickling Summer Vegetables
There are as many ways to pickle vegetables as there are vegetables to pickle. And summer is the perfect time to get started. Quick pickling, pickling and canning, and lacto-fermenting are some of the methods you can use, and within each method, there are countless combinations of flavors.
Quick pickling is perhaps the easiest method with which to begin. Simply put, you pour a hot vinegar solution over some vegetables, let them sit and then refrigerate and eat them. Fermenting can be a bit more tricky, but worth the extra work because of the added health benefits that raw, lacto-fermented foods provide and the delicious sourness particular to this type of pickling. Fermented vegetables are rich in probiotics, and help to balance out the bacterial populations in our guts. The fact that they are also extremely delicious makes them the best kind of health food. To ferment vegetables, you add salt and often water to make a brine, submerge the vegetables in the brine at room temperature, and let the beneficial bacteria do their magical thing. Pickling for canning is the type of pickling that most people worry about when it comes to safety. It all comes down to the “B word” – botulism (a rare and potentially fatal paralytic illness caused by a bacteria-produced toxin) – and it is certainly no small concern. However, it is very easy to pickle and can vegetables safely, as long as you know what it is that is keeping your food and you safe. For hot water bath canning (where you boil your jarred pickles to create a vacuum seal), the thing keeping you safe from botulism is not the seal nor the boiling, but actually the acidity in the jar. It’s the ‘pickle’ that makes the canning of vegetables safe. So if you are using a reliable recipe, and you don’t change the amount of acid (usually vinegar, but sometimes citrus juice), your vegetables should be safe. For each type of pickling, how you flavor your vinegar or brine solution will dramatically affect your final result. So include fresh herbs and spices, and experiment with the type of vinegar you are using - distilled white, red wine, apple cider, etc. And think about other flavoring or coloring agents you can add as well, like whiskey, red beets, horseradish and orange zest.
Here are two simple pickle recipes to get you going.
Quick Pickled Zucchini
Yield: about 6 cups
- 5 cups sliced zucchini
- 1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 2 cups white wine vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (pimento)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Mix the zucchini with the salt, let it rest for 2 hours and then drain.
- In a sauce pot, bring vinegar, water, honey, paprika and lemon zest to a boil.
- Divide the drained zucchini between 2 quart jars.
- Pour the vinegar solution over the zucchini, let it sit until it is cool, and then refrigerate it.
- Zucchini will be at its best if you wait a day or two before eating it. These pickles are delicious on sandwiches or mixed into a salad.
Spicy Soured Greens
Yield: about 4 cups
- 2 cups water (filtered or dechlorinated)
- ¾ teaspoon maple sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Coarse Sea Salt
- 3 ½ cups greens (beet, radish, mustard or turnip), cut into one inch wide pieces
- 1 small garlic clove, sliced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced
- Dissolve the sugar and salt in the water.
- Pack the greens, garlic and jalapeño in a quart container and cover them with the brine.
- Crumple a piece of parchment paper and place on top of greens.
- Cover with a loose lid, making sure the lid pushes down on the parchment to submerge the greens in the brine.
- Ferment at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
- Place in the refrigerator and enjoy. These greens are great on sandwiches, stirred into rice, or mixed into a warm vegetable salad. Use the brine in salad dressings, or to give a little tang to vegetable soups.
This post was originally published by the Natural Gourmet Institute. Learn more about today's Natural Gourmet Center.