Shortcut a stress-free way to stretch the season for preserving fruits, veggies
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.
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.
Chef Michelle Marek pits sour cherries as she prepares them for the quick-pickling process at her restaurant.
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...