Assorted Spicy Sour Pickles – CYOB

Pickles

Picklers in restaurants and kitchens nationwide are breaking boundaries with this crunchy, briny snack. Stretch your imagination and learn to see any vegetable in your garden as a potential pickle. All you need is some salt, vinegar, and a creative flavor combination.

Create Your Own Bite #26

1 Pound of Fresh Vegetables

1 Cup Water

1 Cup Cider Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Salt

1 Tablespoon Truvia

1/2 Teaspoon Dill Weed

A few sprigs of Fresh Thyme (Or Other Windowbox Herb)

1 Pinch Crushed Red Pepper

1/2 Teaspoon Rainbow Peppercorns

1 Clove Garlic, Peeled and Sliced

Makes 4 – 6 Servings, 20 or 10 calories each.

Everyone has nostalgic, childhood memories attached to certain foods. For some, it’s the crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich that their mother used to pack in their lunchbox every school day. For others, it’s the ginger snap cookies Grandma used to make for Christmas, perfectly arranged in a Kris Kringle holiday tin. Maybe you don’t even like ginger snap cookies, but you like the fond family memories they conjure every time you taste those notes of cinnamon, molasses, and that subtle ginger heat.

For me, that’s how I feel about pickles.

They were the first thing out on the table at every Sunday family brunch when I was growing up: a dish of quartered Kosher dills, straight from our hometown deli.  When my Grandfather came to visit my cousin and I in New York the other day, he wanted to go to Katz’s Delicatessen, where he used to go with his parents and grandparents as a child, and enjoy all-you-can-eat pickles at the table right when you sit down. The briny half sours, garlicky full sours, and pickled tomatoes reminded my Grandpa and I of our respective childhoods. And I enjoyed the mindless snacking you get with a bread basket, without any of the carbohydrate guilt.

Pickles satisfy many of the commandments of snacking. They’re crunchy and salty, and if you’re anything like me, they fill you with that nostalgic, childhood goodness others might get from a box of saltines or a handful of potato chips.

Recently, I noticed that pickles are also becoming trendy. I never would have guessed it, but they’re popping up on menus all over the place as appetizers, side dishes, and bar snacks.

The best thing about a pickle is that anything can be a pickle. The weekend of my graduation, I enjoyed a mason jar full of pickled baby carrots, radish, cauliflower, bell pepper and, of course, cucumber . At happy hour the other day, my friend and I snacked on an assortment of pickles that included fennel and celery.

This homestyle assortment of pickles from the Boston Marriot Long Wharf was just one of the many delicious pickle appetizers I've enjoyed in past months, as chefs and home cooks take their summer surplus and give it a little zest.

This assortment of pickles from the Boston Marriot Long Wharf was just one of the many delicious pickle appetizers I’ve enjoyed recently, as chefs and home cooks alike give their summer surplus and a little kick.

That’s why this week, I decided to try my hand at a simple recipe for making fast, refrigerator pickles. Avoid the hassle of canning, and you still have a month to consume your healthy, savory snack.

If your fridge looks anything like mine, it’s easy to simply open it up and break off a few florets of cauliflower, grab a handful of baby carrots, halve three grape tomatoes, quarter a Persian cucumber, slice up some leftover bell pepper and onion, and call it a day. That’s the assortment I gathered for my first batch of homemade pickles. The sturdier the vegetable, the better it will hold up to the brine and the longer it will retain its crunch.

Radish, pepper, parsnip, beets, and other root vegetables make great pickles. But don’t sweat it. If you’re craving a basic pickle, slice up a cucumbers and go from there.

A Little Tip: The main rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t mind eating your vegetables raw, they don’t require any additional work before pickling. If you’re looking to preserve ten pounds of leftover summer squash, however, or another vegetable that requires a little heat before eating, try lightly roasting or curing the vegetable before pickling.

Start by filling your jar with the dry spices of your choosing. Eating Well writer Matthew Thompson wrote a great article on pickling that includes a helpful list of suggested herbs and spices, fresh and dry, to flavor your pickles. I went through my spice rack and pulled a few of my favorites based on his list, as well as cutting a few stems of Lemon Thyme from my window herb garden.

With this round of pickles, I added a whole clove of garlic,  peppercorns, dill, and fresh thyme to the mason jar before tightly packing in the sliced. I always save leftover salsa, sauce, and jam jars, and this is the perfect occasion to make use of the decorative mason gathering dust on your kitchen windowsill. I used a 16-oz, 1 pound jar.

To make your pickling liquid, simply bring the water, cider vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil. Allow mixture to simmer for approximately two minutes, or until the salt and sugar has dissolved completely.

Another Little Tip: For every pound of vegetables, you want about 16 ounces of brine. When in doubt, always aim for a 1:1 ratio. That’s where the mason jars come in handy -it’s not easy to eyeball how many pounds of vegetables you have sitting on your cutting board until you see how many 16 ounce mason jars they fill!

Once your brine is ready, pour the hot liquid over the vegetables, covering them completely but still leaving approximately 1/2 inch of room from the lip of the jar. Here, I added in a pinch of crushed red pepper for spice.

Seal your jar, and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. After that, all you have to do is wait. I’d let your vegetables ferment for at least 24 hours, so the brine has time to impart its flavor and the vegetables begin to develop that unique, pickled texture.

Because we’re not canning, make sure to keep your pickles refrigerated and try to consume within one month of making. Although, if you love pickles half as much as I do, the problem will be keeping them around.

Pickles make a great topping for any sandwich or salad, are a quick and easy appetizer to serve your guests, and can satisfy your snack attack without needing to consume anything deep fried or loaded with sugar.

Serve up your pickles with a fresh herb garnish and treat your guests to a restaurant-inspired starter. Here, my pickled cauliflower, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, onion, and carrot are a healthy and crunchy afternoon snack.

Serve up your pickles with a fresh herb garnish and treat your guests to a restaurant-inspired starter. Here, my pickled cauliflower, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, onion, and carrot are a healthy and crunchy afternoon snack.

Although deep fried pickles are pretty popular these days, too.

Until next time,

Melanie

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