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Asian-Inspired Refrigerator Pickles

finished fridge pickles

I had the first incarnation of these pickles at a potluck I hosted nearly two years ago. My friend Wendy brought them to the party, and by the end of the night, the once overflowing bowl was reduced to a puddle of brine and with three little spears bobbling amidst the hot peppers and onion slivers. Crisp, fragrant and flavorful, they seemed to pair perfectly with every other dish on the table.

When the evening wrapped up, Wendy gave me permission to pour the leftover brine into a jar to save and reuse. The next day I added a fresh batch of cucumber spears and let the sweet/sour liquid work its magic. These days, I make these quick fridge pickles regularly during the spring, summer and fall, when kirby cucumbers are readily available (these do okay when made with English cucumbers, but not so well when made with waxed cukes). The brine can be reused several times (trash it when it gets cloudy).

Feel free to alter this recipe to your liking. Wendy’s original recipe calls for shallots and cilantro. I used scallions and mint because that’s what I had. If you don’t want your pickles to be too spicy, use half a hot pepper (or none at all if you can stand the heat). The recipe is after the jump.

ingredients for fridge pickles

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Pickled Ramps are Everywhere!

ramps

At my birthday party last Saturday, my friends Albert and Kate came bearing a chocolate loaf cake and a half-pint jar of ramps (Albert works at the Fair Food Farmstand, which puts him in the ideal position to catch all the best and most exotic produce in town). I do believe that the very best thing to do with these gifted ramps is to a nice, long soak in a vinegary solution.

As luck would have it, I’ve seen not one, but two other bloggers out there pickling ramps of late. They both used variations on a recipe from Tom Colicchio that ran on Serious Eats last year. I’m tempted to run with that recipe, but I’m also sort of hesitant to use a sweet and sour brine. I’m just not a huge fan of sweet pickles. However, I do believe in the power and talent of Tom Colicchio, so I feel a bit sacreligious questioning his pickle authority.

Have any of you tried this pickled ramp recipe? Do you have an alternate suggestions? Or should I just pop them in my standard brine?

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Pickled Carrots and a Quick Brine Recipe

pickled carrots

Back when I made the pickled asparagus, I ended up having some brine leftover after I filled the jars. Not wanting to be wasteful, I poured what remained into a quart jar and shoved it towards the back of the fridge, to use another day. Over the weekend, I finally put it to good use.

I trimmed and quartered a pound of carrots, blanched them briefly (for no more than 15 seconds, as I didn’t want them to lose their crunch) and packed them into a wide mouth quart jar. Then I brought the brine to a quick boil and poured it in on top of the carrots. Several days later, they are piquant and a little bit spicy (I tucked a long red pepper into the jar along with the carrots).

quart of carrots

I did not do a hot water process with these pickles and instead chose to keep them in the fridge. I did this for several reasons. The first is that it’s not advisable to use reboiled brine for shelf-safe pickles. Part of the reason that pickled vegetables are safe to eat after a hot water process is that the acidity of the vinegar keeps the nasty bacteria at bay. Regular canned vegetables, the ones that aren’t pickled, must be pressure canned to be safe. I knew that my leftover brine was plenty vinegary in terms of making my carrots taste amazing. However, I didn’t know whether the level of acidity was adequate in terms of keeping those carrots shelf-safe. So I decided to go the safe route, skip the water bath and opt for refrigeration as my means of preservation.

chopping carrots

Additionally, sometimes I just want to make pickles, without hauling out a canning pot. Making a single jar with some leftover brine means that I can do just that. It took all of ten minutes to make those pickled carrots and now I have something delicious to go with soup, a sandwich, salad or just munched alone (and since the pickled asparagus I made a few weeks back is long gone) for the next week or so.

For those of you who don’t have some extra brine sitting around your fridge, here’s a quick formula for making a small batch of brine, so that you can make just one or two jars of pickles at a time.

I know it reads like a lot of steps to follow, but really, it takes no time. So go pickle something already.

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Pondering Pickled Limes

Pickled lemons

Awhile back, I caught the tail end of a Twitter conversation in which many folks were discussing memories of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. During the back and forth, the subject of pickled limes came up, as they related to the moment in the story when Amy has her precious limes taken away and her hands beaten for bringing them to school. A suggestion was made that someone (cough, cough, Marisa, cough) try their hand at making some pickled limes.

I remember that book fondly as well (although I’ve always been more enamored with the chapter in Little Men when a young girl is given the gift of a miniature stove and kitchen set and taught to prepare tiny meals. It is a true foodie delight) and was always curious about those pickled limes over which Amy was paddled.

Mrs. Beeton's

I’ve taken up the project (I’m highly suggestible) of finding a way to make a batch similar to which Amy would have eaten, and while there’s much mention of pickled limes on the internet, there’s not much in the way of consensus as to how exactly her limes would have been prepared. I’ve consulted the knowledgeable Mrs. Beeton, and she offered two recipes for pickled lemons (and as far as I can tell, preparation would probably have been identical for limes). However one recipe calls for the lemons/limes to be pickled with the peels on, while the other has the cook remove the peel.

For those of you who are as curious about this as I am, what do you think? Peels on or peels off?

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Pickled Asparagus

Asparagus Tops

Oh asparagus! How I avoided pickling you. I kept you waiting in the fridge for over a week, as you anticipated your spicy vinegar bath. And yet, already you’ve given me so much! After just two days of pickling, you are the perfect balance of crisp and pucker. You make the perfect sidecar to just about any meal. I am enamored.

Blanched Asparagus

That’s right kids, the pickled asparagus has turned out to be a riotous success, despite the fact that I used asparagus that was a tiny bit past its prime (life, why much you always throw distractions into my canning schedule?) and forgot to include the peppercorns in the brine.

Pickling brine

I based my recipe on one from a really terrific book about Southern-style canning called Putting Up. It’s by Stephen Palmer Dowdney, who ran a successful canning business in Charleston, SC for many years (although I’m far more impressed by the fact that he was a college classmate of Pat Conroy, who is one of my favorite authors).

If you’re looking to expand your food preservation reference library (I make it sound so official, don’t I), this is definitely a volume to consider. I like how it’s organized by month, as well as the fact that it has really excellent details on the basics of canning.

Packing jars

Before we get into the recipe, I want to take a moment to encourage all of you to consider pickling something. Possibly even this week. The reason? It is so very simple. You can prep just a single jar at a time, which makes it the perfect first canning project.

Honestly, you don’t even need to do the hot water bath if you’re just making a jar or two for yourself, you can just stash your pickles in the fridge. Making pickles will build your canning confidence and get you excited for more ambitious projects. I’m certainly chomping at the bit for my next pickling project (onions and then okra). If I’ve got you sufficiently excited, my favorite refrigerator pickle recipe is right here.

I’m not going to be giving a jar of these pickles away, since this whole pickling thing is new to me, I want to wait and make sure they continue to be good for the weeks to come before I start handing them out, all willy nilly. However, do not despair. I’ve got another giveaway up my sleeve that will be coming soon.

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Note to Self – Remember the Okra

Fried Okra

I’ve been in Austin, TX for the SXSW Interactive conference over the last few days, so I’ve been running hither and yon, attending sessions about things like Misogyny on the Internet and Is Online Privacy Broken. It’s been a fascinating whirlwind, although I’m looking forward to getting back to home and routine tomorrow night.

Last week, I made a batch of Orange-Ginger Marmalade, but I’m finding that I can’t quite muster the mental organization to write about it, especially when my meals have been consisting of things like barbecue ribs at Iron Works and an amazing Tex-Mex dip that consists of queso (melted Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes*) poured over a mound of guacamole.

However, I did want to mention the fried okra I ate last night, at a lovely restaurant on 6th Street called Parkside. Everything I tasted there was absolutely delicious, but the fried okra continues to linger on my palate-brain and it has me convinced that I need to incorporate okra into the canned vegetable rotation in the coming season. I’ve always been one of those who shied away from okra, fearful of it’s mucus-like reputation, but after Parkside’s okra, I am converted. I know that Rick’s Picks makes a pickled okra (and it’s a product with a loyal following), but now I’m going to be on the prowl for a recipe to do it at home. Anyone have any suggestions?

*It is one of my goals to can a batch of homemade tomatoes in the Rotel style (chopped with roasted jalepenos) over the summer/fall canning season. Hold me to it!

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