WEEK­END LIFE:

Short­cut a stress-free way to stretch the sea­son for pre­serv­ing fruits, veg­gies

Calgary Herald New Condos - - Front Page - SU­SAN SEMENAK

Say the word pickle and you may think of boil­ing pots of wa­ter and wor­ries over food safety.

But there is a stress-free way: Quick­pick­ling. Quick-pick­lers make small batches, just a few jars at a time, of what­ever fruits or veg­eta­bles are in sea­son. Be­cause their pre­serves will be stored in the fridge for only a few weeks, they don’t bother with boil­ing-wa­ter baths to vac­uum-seal the jars to keep out air, bac­te­ria and mould. And they use both sweet and vine­gary brines. Michelle Marek starts with the first wild leeks of spring, moves on to sour cher­ries and poblano pep­pers and then bras­si­cas in fall.

The in­ven­tive chef and coowner of the Mon­treal restau­rant Food­lab says quick-pick­ling isn’t as ex­act as con­ven­tional pick­ling, which re­quires pre­cise pro­por­tions of acid­ity and salt to keep foods from spoil­ing. It al­lows more room for cre­ativ­ity. She uses rose wine vine­gar to pickle onions, for in­stance. “I make my quick-pickle brines to taste. Usu­ally it’s equal parts wa­ter and vine­gar and half a part sugar for a touch of sweet to bal­ance the sharp­ness of the vine­gar,” she said.

Hugh Ach­e­son, the Ot­tawaborn celebrity chef now based in At­lanta, Ga., has just writ­ten a book called Pick a Pickle (Pot­ter Style), which fea­tures nu­mer­ous quick pick­les.

Ach­e­son has a fond­ness for dill pick­les, but has added such South­ern favourites as pick­led water­melon rind and green toma­toes to his reper­toire. His Pick a Pickle recipes in­clude pick­led turnip stems, blue­ber­ries and even green straw­ber­ries (the puck­ery tart­ness of the un­ripened berries makes a great gar­nish for fish dishes, he says.) He also pick­les peaches to toss into a salad of frisee let­tuce, blue cheese and shaved pro­sciutto.

Ach­e­son also switches up the flavour­ings, some­times adding tar­ragon, cin­na­mon, star anise or whole cloves, even miso, to his brines.

Pick­led Sour Cher­ries

Makes 1 quart (1 L) This is one of chef Michelle Marek’s favourite quick-pickle recipes. It’s quite sim­ple, with no spe­cial equip­ment required. It is great with pork chops, she says. 4 cups sour cher­ries, stemmed and pit­ted (mea­sured be­fore pit­ting) 1 cup white vine­gar

1 cup wa­ter 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 tsp salt

1 tsp mus­tard seeds 1/2 tsp fen­nel seeds 1/2 tsp black pep­per­corns

Place the pit­ted cher­ries in a clean dry bowl or jar.

Bring the vine­gar, wa­ter, sugar, salt and spices to a boil and pour over cher­ries.

Let cool, then re­frig­er­ate overnight be­fore us­ing.

Here are a few new takes on old-fash­ioned pick­les, taken from Hugh Ach­e­son’s book, Pick a Pickle (Pot­ter Style):

Spicy Pick­led Toma­toes

Makes 2 quarts or 4 pints (2 L)

This spicy-sweet pickle goes well with In­dian food or slathered on sand­wiches or pizza. It can last up to 10 days in the fridge. 3 cups cherry toma­toes

1 tsp kosher salt

1/3 cup olive oil

3 shal­lots, minced 4 jalapenos, seeded and thinly sliced 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground 1 tsp yel­low mus­tard seeds, toasted and ground into a paste 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice 2 tbsp vine­gar 1 tbsp brown sugar

1 cup chopped fresh mint 1 cup chopped flat-leaf pars­ley

Place toma­toes in a medium glass or ceramic bowl that can with­stand a lit­tle heat, and sprin­kle them with salt.

In a large fry­ing pan, bring the olive oil to a shim­mer, just be­low the smoke point, over medi­umhigh heat. Add the shal­lots and then the jalapenos.

Fry un­til ten­der, about 2 min­utes, and then add the cumin and mus­tard.

Fry for about 1 minute and then re­move from the heat. Let cool slightly.

Add the lime juice, vine­gar and brown sugar to the shal­lot mix­ture and then pour this mix­ture over the toma­toes. Add the mint and pars­ley.

Pack the mix­ture into clean, dry stan­dard quart Ma­son jars, leav­ing 1/2 inch of headspace at the top.

Cap with the lids and bands and set aside to cool for two hours then re­frig­er­ate for up to 10 days.

Pick­led Water­melon

Rind

Makes 1 quart (1 L) This is a South­ern sta­ple. Slice water­melon, then cut the rinds off. Re­serve the fruit for an­other use and then re­move the green skin from the rinds and dis­card. What you are pick­ling is the whitish sec­tion. It is great along­side grilled fish or chopped into a fruit salad.

Cut the water­melon rind into pieces about one-inch wide, 1/4inch thick and 2 inches long.

Com­bine salt, sugar, all­spice, bay leaf, star anise, rice vine­gar and wa­ter in a non-re­ac­tive pot and bring to a boil.

Add water­melon rind, re­duce the heat to a low boil and cook for 10 min­utes.

Us­ing a can­ning fun­nel, pour the rind and the pick­ling liq­uid into clean, dry stan­dard quart Ma­son jars, leav­ing 1/2 inch of head space at the top.

Cap with lids and bands, cool for 2 hours and then ei­ther re­frig­er­ate or process ac­cord­ing to the jar man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tions.

Re­frig­er­ate for up to 10 days or as long as 10 months if pro­cessed.

Vin­cenzo D’Alto/Postmedia News

Chef Michelle Marek pits sour cher­ries as she pre­pares them for the quick-pick­ling process at her restau­rant.

Rinne Allen/Pick a Pickle

Spicy Pick­led Toma­toes are great with In­dian food or on pizza. The heat of the jalapenos is bal­anced with lime juice and brown sugar. 4 green cups skin water­melon re­moved rind, 1 tbsp pick­ling salt 1/2 cup gran­u­lated sugar 5 all­spice berries 1 bay...

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