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Published: Thursday September 4, 2014 MYT 12:35:00 PM
Updated: Saturday September 6, 2014 MYT 9:12:26 AM

The perks of pickling

Popularity of pickling grows with younger generation who want to preserve food, cut costs.

It used to be that pickling was something only your grandmother did. But that doesn’t apply anymore.

Younger generations are embracing pickling as a way to explore their interest in food, preserve the season’s bounty and cut their food budgets.

Pickled okra by Felix Muszquiz.

These days, pickling is so trendy that it’s even been parodied by the comedy show Portlandia. In one skit, the actors’ penchant for pickling gets out of control as they drop everything from parking tickets to dead birds into jars of vinegar.

Jokes aside, pickling pros say the practice doesn’t have to be long and involved. There is a method called quick pickling that does not require sterilising jars and lids. You store the finished product in the refrigerator and it’s good for a month.

“Plus, once people see how easy it is, then they realise that they can do it, too,” says Kristy Page of Fresno, California, who has been pickling for several years. “And once you really get into it, there is almost no limit to what you can pickle.”

Page has pickled everything from cherries to curried cauliflower. The pickled cherries are loaded with fall-like flavours of star anise, cinnamon and cloves, which Page uses as a topping on pork, in salads and on ice cream.

Quick pickling requires just a few ingredients: vinegar, sugar, salt and spices. Page likes to buy a Mexican spices pickling mix found at some Hispanic grocery stores. If you can’t find that, popular pickling spices include bay leaves, celery seed, turmeric, garlic, coriander, mustard seed, cinnamon stick and black pepper.

Pickling newbies can try just about any vegetable they like, but keep in mind that vegetables with tougher skin hold up better in the pickling process. Cucumbers, carrots, radishes and peppers are good choices.

Kristy Page pours hot vinegar steeped with bay leaves, peppers and other spices into a jar as part of her recipe to make a jar of pickles.

Andrea Garza has been pickling for 10 years and knows several people who have gotten into the hobby as a way to preserve the abundance of vegetables from their backyard gardens.

“Others want to try and save a little money,” Garza says. “Either way, it is becoming popular.”

On her blog Crazy Crayons, Garza recently wrote about pickling 1.35kg of jalapeno peppers using the canning method of sterilising jars and lids. That many peppers may seem like a lot to most people, but not for Garza.

“I have learned from experience that between the amount of chillies we eat and the number of jars I give away, I need roughly 15 per year,” Garza wrote recently on her blog. “Needless to say, I will be pickling again next week.”

Veteran pickler Felix Muzquiz is a fan of preserving cauliflower, carrots, peppers, okra, green beans and asparagus. Last year, she pickled carrots and hot peppers and was pleased with the results.

“It looked really beautiful with all those fall colours of red, yellow, orange and green,” Muzquiz says. “It really is a nice way to keep the flavours of the season.”

For those who actually want to try to make pickles, Muzquiz recommends adding a fresh grape leaf to the jar to keep the pickles firmer and crisper. She also slices off the blossom end of the cucumber.

“Pickling is really a blast,” Muzquiz says. “And it gives you a very satisfying feeling to be able to do preserve something like food.”

Jars of colourful pickled produce, including, from left, pickled cherries (Kristy Page), carrots (Kristy Page), asparagus (Felix Muzquiz), cucumbers (Kristy Page) and okra (Felix Muzquiz).

Pickled Sweet Cherries

1/3 cup sugar plus 1 tbsp
1¼ tsp coarse sea salt
1 star anise (optional)
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
6 whole cloves
½ cup white vinegar
1¾ cup water
450g fresh cherries, pitted

In a small saucepan, combine the water with the sugar, salt, star anise, cinnamon stick and cloves. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Place cherries in a 1-litre (4-cup) glass jar. Pour in enough vinegar mixture to cover cherries and almost completely fill the jar; you can either strain out the whole spices or place them in the jar. Place the jar on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and no more than 2 weeks. – Adapted from a Whole Foods recipe by Kristy Page

Jalapeno Carrots

Brine
2 cups white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

1 tbsp pickling spice mix (or, 20 peppercorns and four bay leaves)
Several carrots (enough to fill small jar) and three jalapeño slices

In a pot, combine white vinegar, sugar, salt and spices. Heat on high until the mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 seconds. Turn heat off, set aside.

Slice carrots into sticks, place into jar. Pour the brine into the jars and add three jalapeno slices. Let cool before putting the lids back on. Refrigerate for three hours before tasting. Store in refrigerator. – Kristy Page

Toorshi

1 bunch of celery, cut into strips, 2-4 inches (5-10cm) in length
1 bunch of baby carrots
1 head of cabbage, broken into pieces
1 head of cauliflower

Brine
4 cups of white vinegar
3 cups of water
½ cup of salt
1 tsp sugar

Cut vegetables and place in a four-litre jar. Bring brine to a boil and then pour over vegetables. Put lid on container.

Vegetables should be ready to eat in three days. – Lillian Nishkian. – The Fresno Bee/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

MORE ON PICKLING: The Don’t Call Me Chef columnists have three chutney recipes.

Tags / Keywords: pickling, food preservation

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