Friday, August 8, 2014

Simple Japanese-Style Pickles

Cook once - eat lots... and with a simple preparation that keeps the veggies in great shape for days and days - even 2 weeks.  Wouldn't that be great?

Well, not only is that possible, it is within reach of just about everyone, and takes little or no heat.  With beets, carrots, cabbage and chard stems from my Oxbow CSA box, lets go.

Real quick - pickling may seem hard, or something everyone is doing.  Neither of these reasons should hold you back from picking up the rice vinegar and pickling some of your summer vegetables.

There are many flavors of pickling, and several methods - this is just one.  The fact that this is particularly easy, and it compliments lots of other flavors, makes this a great way to start.

So... onto the show.

Quick Japanese pickles
Top: non-traditional spicy beet pickles
Left: traditional carrot & cabbage pickles
Right: chard stem pickles

The fastest pickles are made with vegetables you'd eat raw anyway.
Some of the reasons I love them:
No heat,
Stay moist and crunchy for days,
Quick addition to dinner, sandwiches (hellloooooo Banh-Mí), and salads.

One con - does take some time.  But if you are doing other things and have a timer, it is worth the investment of your effort, both that day, and on into the future.

 How To:

Cut up your veg - pretty small for this style. For about 4 C of cut veg, sprinkle with 1tsp of salt.  Above I have 2 C carrots and 2 C cabbage.  Let the salt drain the veg for about 20 minutes.  
Squeeze the vegetables gently to remove the drained water.

Last of all:
1/3 C rice vinegar
3 Tbs sugar (white)

Combine everything.  It is ready to go now, and ready for the next week or so.

I kept the vegetables separate to drain (as advised in several Japanese cookbooks), but combining everything when you add the sweetened vinegar is fine.  And no, you don't need to rinse the vegetables since you want some salt in your pickle.  

Any crispy or crunchy vegetable you enjoy eating raw is great for this approach.
Some good vegetables to consider - 
carrots, diakon radish, ANY radish, kohlrabi, peppers, cucumbers, tiny baby zucchini, cabbage,  fennel, sweet onions and red onions.

The next category is vegetables that need a quick blanch/boil - and then a swim in the pickle.
That is what I did with the chard stems.  (They were from the chard that I used for the goma-ae).  The only difference is you put the salt in with the sugar and vinegar.

Choose your vegetable that needs a little cooking, boil it for a few minutes until it is just barely fork tender, drain, then toss it hot into the vinegar, sugar, salt mixture.  Let it sit and cool.  Eat it all up.
(Alternately, you can boil it in the pickling mixture - just double the amount of mixture, and add 1/3 C water)

Some good veggies for this are chard stems, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, beets, scapes, sliced winter squash and green beans.

The way I made those beet pickle unconventional was by using a different vinegar - in this case

spicy Filipino vinegar. (The brand Datu Puti is also what to look for if you want to play with Cane Juice Vinegar for Adobo).  And for this one, I cooked the beet IN the vinegar.

1/3 C Sukang Masssim (or any other vinegar spiced with those evil little chilies)
1/3 C Rice Vinegar
1/3 C water
1 tsp salt
3 Tbs sugar

Beets - peeled and sliced into 1/4 in (or thinner) slices.

Boil the beets IN the pickling liquid for about 20 minutes.  Test with a fork at 15 minutes...
When they are barely fork tender, let them cool (they'll keep softening a bit more as they cool).

And you can spicy-vinegar-up any of these veggies.

Once again - more flavor and little or no heat!

Have fun.

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