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Easy-to-make quick pickles perk up a meal

What's sweet and tart and trendy all over? • Why, quick pickles, of course, and not just those made with cucumbers. Carrots, green beans, okra, asparagus, cauliflower, kohlrabi, jalapenos, watermelon, even cherries, pears and plums, change their tune once allowed to ferment for a bit in vinegar-fueled brine. • Recently, after another insipid and ill-conceived side dish at a local restaurant (Sludgy black beans with a lobster roll? Really?), I got to thinking about quick pickles. Specifically, how nicely the snap of a few garlic-pickled green beans or maybe even the sweet pop of pickled cherries would have accompanied the creamy lobster salad. A sour spark is often the perfect foil for rich foods. • But I am a little late to the party. Chefs around the country, including those at more forward-thinking Tampa Bay area restaurants, have embraced the quick-pickle craze, serving them alongside all sorts of main dishes, but smoked meats especially. Cold, cured meats play nicely with the tang of brine. A dilled green bean is positively spritely as the swizzler in a Bloody Mary, too.

Chef Chad Johnson at SideBern's in Tampa often serves pickled veggies with his charcuterie selections. Holy Hog and the Refinery, both in Tampa, are also on the quick-pickle wagon. Refinery chef-owner Greg Baker has pickled turnips and parsnips in a lavender brine, green beans with cumin, and green tomatoes in a malt-style brine. He has even pickled quail eggs with a kimchi brine.

Baker says pickles bring a specific, controlled sweetness and acidity to whatever they are paired with and cut the richness in heavy dishes.

In Miami Beach, the popular Yardbird Southern Table & Bar has gone positively pickle punchy, playing with pumpkin and chiles, among other ingredients, and Cask & Larder in Winter Park is pickling eggplant and cauliflower with raisins. Chef Amy Murray at Revival Bar+Kitchen in Berkeley, Calif., serves pickled rhubarb with her duck confit.

These chefs know something that could help us home cooks jazz up what we serve the family: Pickled produce brightens dishes and adds texture and flavor contrasts. Imagine how much more interesting your burgers might be with a tangle of Kohlrabi Quick Pickles on top, or what a spoonful of Pickled Pears and Plums could do alongside pork chops grilled with lots of sauce.

Home pickling

Making quick pickles is an easy endeavor, less cumbersome than canning, which requires special equipment and curing time. For novice canners, there's always concern that jars won't seal properly and they'll send someone to the emergency room clutching their stomach in pain. And that's not a baseless worry because, traditionally, canned food is not refrigerated. There is a safety factor.

No such worries with quick pickles, which cure in the refrigerator and are meant to be eaten within a couple of weeks. They can be put into jars for fridge storage or prepared in well-sealed containers. Make a jar for yourself and a few for friends, making sure they know they are to be kept chilled. Such a nice gift, and one that looks like it took some super-special talent. You and I know differently.

For quick pickles, a boiled brine heavy on vinegar is poured over whatever produce you are using, and an overnight rest in the refrigerator is all that's needed to complete the transformation. The heat from the brine softens fruits and veggies but does not cook them completely, so they retain crunch and shape.

Of the recipes that accompany this story, the most time-consuming is Watermelon Rind Pickles, and that's simply because of the effort it takes to peel the big fruit. Yes, you must peel the watermelon and it is messy. You only want the white part of the rind, so you'll need to skim off the green outer layer with a sharp knife and then think of something else to do with the pink flesh. But pickled watermelon rind is one of those foods that elicits serious nostalgia. It's not something you see much anymore, and the clove-flavored, sweet brine is such an unexpected delight that you'll hardly be able to wait to eat the pickles straight from the jar or as an accompaniment to barbecued ribs. I'll take a couple of hunks with my tuna sandwich.

I was also quite pleased with the sweet-tart flavor of the Pickled Pears and Plums. Thin slices of lemon in the mix add acid and brightness, and they look lovely in the jar. The pieces are fairly large, so they are better as a sort-of side dish than a relish or salsa.

When you are thinking of what your quick pickles will complement, consider what the elements are usually eaten with in other forms. For instance, carrots are often served with corned beef and potatoes, so how about accompanying a corned beef sandwich with Spicy Pickled Carrots? Or how about as a partner with seafood tacos?

The trick is to match them with something that's rich and fatty, not tart or overly sweet. This is why pickled foods commonly mingle with cured meats, cheeses and nuts on platters. They wake up the senses and brighten the earthiness of those foods.

Besides, they are easy to make. And so cool.

Laura Reiley contributed to this report. Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@tampabay.com and (727) 893-8586.

>>EASY

Pickled Pears and Plums

1 Bartlett pear, thinly sliced

1 large plum, seeded and cut into six wedges

½ lemon, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, slivered

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 cup rice wine vinegar

2 sprigs fresh mint

Place the pear, plum, lemon and fresh ginger in a bowl. In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the water, sugar and rice wine vinegar. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook until sugar dissolves.

Place the fruit mixture into two pint jars and add the sprigs of mint at the top. Slowly pour the hot pickling liquid over the fruit, filling the jars to the top.

Cool the pickles, then refrigerate for 2 days or up to 1 week before serving.

Makes 2 pints.

Source: Alton Brown, Food Network

>>EASY

Spicy Pickled Carrots

5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

2 pounds large carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch-thick pieces

1 ½ cups vinegar

8 peppercorns

1 teaspoon salt

10 bay leaves, whole

1 ½ cups water

6 ounces pickled sliced jalapenos

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and saute the garlic. Add carrots and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully add vinegar, peppercorns, salt and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes and then add water and jalapenos and bring to a simmer again for another 10 minutes.

Cool completely and then transfer the carrots and cooking liquid into a covered container and refrigerate overnight. Store the carrots in the liquid and use a slotted spoon to serve them. You may leave the bay leaves in the liquid to add to the flavor, but do not eat them.

Makes about 4 pints.

Source: about.com

>>EASY

Quick Pickled Dilly Green Beans

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

½ pound green beans, trimmed

1 cup white wine vinegar

1 cup water

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pickling spice

1 garlic clove, peeled

Combine dill and green beans in a medium bowl.

Combine vinegar and the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute or until sugar and salt dissolve.

Pour over bean mixture. Let stand 2 hours. Drain or serve with a slotted spoon. Chill at least overnight.

Makes about 4 cups.

Source: Cooking Light

>>MODERATE

Kohlrabi Quick Pickles

2 pounds kohlrabi (buy slightly more if the leaves and long stems are still attached)

2 cups red wine vinegar

2 cups water

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons pickling salt

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, grated

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

¼ teaspoon red chili flakes

Wash and dry two quart jars. Set aside.

Clean and trim kohlrabi bulbs by cutting off leaves and stems, then trimming away the tough outer layer. This is easier to do with a sharp knife than a vegetable peeler. Using a mandoline slicer or a food processor, slice kohlrabi into thin sticks. (Alternately, slice the bulb into thin but larger pieces so that they can be eaten like bread-and-butter pickles.)

Divide the shreds evenly between the two jars.

Combine vinegar, water, honey, pickling salt, ginger, garlic, black peppercorns and red chili flakes in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

Once brine is boiling vigorously, remove it from the heat and carefully pour over the kohlrabi.

Place lids on the jars and let them sit until cool.

Once the jars are cool to the touch, refrigerate the pickles. They will be ready in 24 hours but are better in 48. Eat with salads, sandwiches or meat dishes.

Makes 2 quarts.

Source: seriouseats.com

>>MODERATE

Watermelon Rind Pickles

The most time-consuming task for this recipe is preparing the rind. Wash the watermelon well. Cut away the pink flesh and peel away the green skin. You'll be left with white rind. That's what you're going to use. You'll need a 5-pound watermelon for this recipe.

1 ¾ pounds peeled watermelon rind, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 cups sugar

2 cups apple cider vinegar

3 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add rind. Cook until just tender, about 15 minutes. Divide rinds between two 24-ounce glass jars. Bring sugar, vinegar, cloves and cinnamon to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan over high heat; pour over rinds. Seal jars with lids; let cool. Chill overnight.



Source: saveur.com

>>EASY

Pickled Cherries

¾ cup distilled white vinegar

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 pound fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted

1 large rosemary sprig

Bring first 5 ingredients and ¾ cup water to a boil in a medium stainless steel saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 5 minutes. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain into a medium bowl; return liquid to pan. Add cherries and rosemary to saucepan. Simmer until cherries are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer cherries and rosemary to a 1-quart mason jar. Pour in enough pickling liquid to cover cherries. Cover and chill at least 24 hours.

Can be made 1 month ahead. Keep refrigerated. Strain before serving.

Source: epicurious.com

Easy-to-make quick pickles perk up a meal 08/12/13 [Last modified: Monday, August 12, 2013 5:11pm]
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