Tag Archives | Asian Pickles

Cookbooks: Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon

Asian Pickles cover

I have been looking forward to the release of Karen Solomon’s new book, Asian Pickles for at least two years now. Karen is a friend and I stayed with her when I came through San Francisco during my first book tour back in 2012.

During my brief visit, we spent a goodly amount of time talking about our upcoming projects. I told her about Preserving by the Pint (which at that point was nothing more than an idea and a list of possible recipes) and she talked about Asian Pickles.

Asian Pickles spine

At that point, the book was actually mostly finished, because her publisher was trying something new with it. Instead of simply publishing the physical version, they were going to periodically release smaller ebooks, featuring approximately half of the recipes from the five main chapters.

Asian Pickles intro

I saw each of the ebooks as they came out. They were gorgeously designed, bursting with useful recipes, and made me ridiculously excited to get into the kitchen and start pickling. I made her Pickled Asian Pears with Lemon for the blog and tried a couple other things that were wonderful but just never made it into post form (it happens).

Asian Pickles water kimchi

Back in early January, I spent a solid two days reading through a xeroxed manuscript of the book, dog earring pages and trying to craft a quote for the back cover. It’s was nearly impossible to squeeze every complimentary thing I wanted to say into two sentences, but I think I managed. Happily, this blog post gives me the opportunity to gush just a little bit more.

Asian Pickles cucumber kimchi

What I find so delightful about this book is that it gives me the chance to dive into a world of pickles that had previously been veiled and mysterious. Karen starts each section (Japan, Korea, China, India, and Southeast Asia) which an introduction to each region’s unique pickle culture (truly, it makes the North American pickle tradition look puny).

Asian Pickles chutney

Once the stage is set for the flavors and techniques you’ll encounter, she leads you into the recipes. The headnotes are both entertaining and full of useful information, and the recipes themselves are clearly written but not so deeply technical that you have to read and reread to unpack the instructions.

Asian Pickles glossary

One adjustment that most North American preservers will have to make with these pickles is that for the most part, they are not safe for boiling water bath canning. Many of the pickles are ferments, which will lose both their texture and happy bacteria when heat processed. While there are others that are made with vinegar, the concentration of acid is typically not high enough to make them safe as a preserved pickle.

I do think you’ll find that the recipes make pickles delicious enough that you won’t begrudge the refrigerator space necessary to keep them.

Asian Pickles back

The final word is that I recommend this book for anyone who loves pickled things and wants to move beyond the array traditionally found in western cultures. I have a long list of things I plan on making from it and love that it has both recipes that can be made quickly and longer term projects. If you think of yourself as a homemade pickle aficionado, this book should be on your shelf.

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Karen Solomon’s Pickled Asian Pears with Lemon

asian pears

Asian pears are a tough ingredient for preservers. So much of their charm is in their clean flavor and snappy texture and those are qualities that don’t translate well in a jam or butter. They’re also really quite low in acid and so have be to acidified aggressively in order to be safe for canning. Sometime ago, I determined to save myself the heartache of wasted asian pears and simply kept them far away from my jars.

lemon zest strips

But then, I got a copy of Karen Solomon’s new e-book, called Asian Pickles: Japan. Her publisher is doing this brilliant thing, in which they’re releasing sections of the book electronically in advance of the physical publication. These e-versions include audio enhancements and give you a chance to preview some of the content that the print edition will include (coming in Spring 2014).

brine

Included in this lovely little e-book was a recipe for Pickled Asian Pear with Lemon. You lightly poach asian pear wedges and then float them in a brine made from white wine vinegar, sugar, and lemon juice. Strips of lemon zest and slivers of ginger add flavor (the recipe calls for pickled ginger, but not having any in my kitchen, I substituted a few peeled slices of fresh).

pears in brine

This recipe neatly dealt with all my asian pear preserving issues. It handles the acid issue with a generous application of undiluted vinegar. You do lose the crunch of the raw pear, but in its place is a silky, tender portion of fruit. I’ve taken to eating bits of these pickles pears with blue cheese over torn Bibb lettuce. With persimmons slowly fading from the seasonal fruit array, I’m happy to have a different fruit to heap onto my lunchtime salads.

finished pears

You should know that Karen’s e-book isn’t simply easy little pickles like this one (though there are others that can be made with relative quickness). She goes into a great, useful depth about traditional Japanese pickling and offers details about the various techniques (including how to start and maintain a pickling bed), carefully explains the steps required to pull off the trickier ferments, and offers lots of helpful suggestions about how to incorporate these new-to-you pickles into your meals. For $2.99, it’s a serious score.
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