I don’t exactly know why I did it, but I waited until the very last minute to complete this February Can Jam challenge. Maybe it was indecision (I did have a hard time deciding what to make, and it didn’t help when other folks started posting all their lovely projects, tempting my attention in many directions). Maybe it was just a series of busy days (although, I’m not sure I can plead busy-ness, since there were multiple snow days this month, that slowed things down and left me with some long, lazy days).
Whatever the reason, I found myself staring down the deadline tonight and needed to make something that would meet the challenge criteria.
I spent awhile skimming through cookbooks, looking to see if I could find a recipe that moved me. I found nothing that matched what I was craving (a slightly sweet, very puckery, mildly spicy garnishing pickle), so I took what I know about pickles and headed for the stove.
Here’s what I know about pickling vegetables. Always use a commercially produced vinegar that has the acidity printed on the label (5% is best). Vinegar can be diluted by half (but no more). Spices can be tweaked and added, depending on your tastebuds. However, the amounts of low-acid vegetables shouldn’t be altered, in order to keep the product safe. If you want to get a bit more product into the jar without compromising your seal, a hot pack (this is the packing method in which you add your vegetable to the brine and let it heat up a bit, instead of packing it raw or briefly blanched and then pouring the brine over top) is the way to go.
So here’s what I did. I thinly sliced two daikon radishes and three carrots on a mandolin (I should have used one more carrot, that front jar isn’t as full as I’d like). Setting those aside, I brewed up a brine of white vinegar, water, sugar and a bunch of spices. I sipped the brine from a deep soup spoon three times in the process of making it, trying to find the right balance of sweet, tart and flavor. When I was satisfied with what was in the pot, I dropped in the slivered veg and stirred. Half a minute on the heat and then off. Using my trusty 1-cup measure, I scooped pickles and filled jars.
They taste pretty good now, but they’re fresh, young. Pickles such as these need a little time to mellow, so that the vinegar can smooth out and the sugar can lose its treacly edge. I’m looking forward to trying them again in a few weeks.
- 3-4 fat carrots
- 2 slim daikon radishes
- 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups filtered water
- 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons pickling salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3-4 star anise flowers
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of powdered ginger
- Thinly slice the vegetables on a mandolin and set aside.
- Combine the brine ingredients in a medium-sized, non-reactive pot (the one I used holds four quarts). Bring to a boil. Taste (do not inhale over the pot, the vinegar will make you cough) and adjust spices to please your palate. Add the sliced vegetables. Stir to combine and remove from the heat.
- Fill prepared jars. Wipe rims and apply lids. Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes (starting time after the pot has returned to a boil).