Last month 1500 foodies on Facebook made pie together – each in their own kitchen all around the world. This month it is pickling time! And we weren’t limited to just working with cucumbers (although those are still my favorites). We could pickle anything. It could be watermelon rind, strawberries, sour cherries, grapes, green beans or, of course, dill pickles!
Dreamed up by the incomparable Shauna Ahern, author of the “gluten-free girl and the chef” food blog and cookbook, this is a grassroots event that is gaining momentum by the day. Each month Shauna announces the next date and subject and then all of us go off and create something fun to share. It is that simple – just a love of cooking and a willingness to share what we make. And a movement was born.
Bright blue eyes shining and full of life, I met Shauna this year in Austin during the IACP conference. She led one of the most interactive and spontaneous sessions at the conference. It is hard to imagine when you meet this vivacious woman that she spent most of her life sick with undiagnosed celiac disease – an allergy to wheat products. After many years of medical tests and misdiagnoses, she finally figured out on her own that it was wheat that made her sick. She had the blood test done, got her diagnosis and started really living for the first time, a life full of unbelievably delicious food, laughter, love, and happiness. She absolutely glows!
Last month I received a huge 20-pound box of Vidalia onions and I have been working my way through them, loving every single minute. When I learned that this month’s “party” was going to be pickling, I knew immediately that I would make pickled Vidalia onions. And my oh my are they good!
I’m not the kind of person who likes to wait a long time to taste something I have made, so “refrigerator” pickling is perfect for me. You make a quick brine, prepare your fruits or veggies, and let the soak, absorbing the wonderful flavors. They are usually ready the next day and that is just about as long as I want to wait, LOL.
In addition to the Vidalia’s, I also wanted to try pickling zucchini. As you know Zuni Cafe is one of my absolute favorite restaurants and they serve the most amazing pickles. They offer both pickled zucchini and red onions, either is enough to make you beg to go back again and again, if only to get more pickles. With the addition of turmeric, their zucchini pickles turn a vibrant chartreuse. Because they use red onions, their pickled onions are brilliant magenta. I know you can imagine how gorgeous these two are when placed next to each other on the plates, adorning Zuni’s world-famous burgers. It is truly a sight to behold and even better to eat.
If you want some other sources for pickling recipes and information, check out these fabulous sites:
And if you want to add to your culinary library, here are some good books on the topic:
It would be a bit challenging to do pickling during the winter when you have to keep the windows closed, because the vinegar-based brine is quite pungent, but whenever the mood strikes you, by all means, make pickles! They are infinitely better tasting than anything you can buy at the grocery store. As a matter of fact, unless you live near a pickle vendor like the ones in New York City’s … district, you owe it to yourself to try at least one batch. They are remarkably easy to make and once you’ve tried them, I’m pretty sure there won’t be any turning back.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Both of these recipes are for refrigerated pickles. They are not designed to be processed in a water bath. If you do that, your pickles will be cooked and limp instead of crunchy and fresh tasting.
- 2 medium Vidalia, white or yellow onions
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- Cut the root and stem ends off the onions, lay flat on a cutting board and cut in half. Peel away the top papery layer as well as the first layer of onion. Cut each half into 1/4-inch thick wedges.
- Transfer onions to a 2 to 3-quart heavy saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to just below a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Remove and discard garlic clove.
- In the same saucepan, heat vinegar, water, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic and coriander over medium heat. If you are not using Vidalia onions, add another 2 tsp brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour over onions.
- Cool uncovered to room temperature. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
- 1 lb medium to smallish size zucchini or patty pan squash
- 1 small yellow onion
- 2 tbsp sea salt or 3 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1-1/2 tsp crushed yellow and/or brown mustard seeds
- Scant 1 tsp ground turmeric
- Wash and trim the zucchini, then using a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice into 1/16-inch thick slices. Slice the onion very thin as well. Place together in a large but shallow bowl, add the salt and toss to distribute. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt. The ice water helps keep the zucchini crisp.
- After about 1 hour, taste and feel a piece of zucchini - it should be faintly salty and softened. Drain, making sure to remove any remaining ice cubes. Dry very thoroughly between towels, or spin, a few handfuls at a time, in a salad spinner. Excess water will dilute the flavor and spoil the pickle.
- Rinse and dry the bowl you were using. Then place the zucchini and onion slices back in the bowl.
- Combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds, and turmeric in a saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside until just warm to the touch. If the brine is too hot it will cook the vegetables and make the pickles soft instead of crisp.
- Pour the cooled brine over the zucchini and onions. Stir to distribute the spices. Transfer the pickles to jars, preferably ones with “shoulders” to hold the zucchini and onions beneath the surface of the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini, turning them a brilliant chartreuse color. These keep indefinitely refrigerated.
- Yield: about 3 cups pickles