Friday, July 24, 2009

Quick Asian-Style Pickles

Canning isn’t for everyone. It involves long hours in a kitchen over a hot stove. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years, since my children were toddlers, and I don’t think much about pulling out the kettle and setting to work, but it can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t have Brilliant Daughter at your side.

While waiting to get down to the farm to pick up my produce, I happened to see some lovely pickling cukes at the local farmer’s market and decided to make some quick pickles that don’t involve any heat or canning kettles. The original recipe can be found here on the Food in Jars blog, a great resource and inspiration for home canners. Marisa has some great recipes and helpful hints, should you think you might want to venture into the world of preserved food.

I have altered her recipe for Asian-Inspired Quick Pickles to suit what I had on hand, one of the joys of experimentation. I started with pickling cucumbers that were about 5 inches long (this allows them to fit in either a quart jar or flat plastic storage container). I washed them well and then sliced them into 4-6 spears, depending upon their circumference. I laid them out nicely in a flat Tupperware and topped them with the seasoning ingredients, then poured on the rice vinegar. A few tosses with my hand, then I covered them up and stuck them in the fridge. I did periodically shake the container, whenever I was in the fridge for something else, but these were ready in one day.

What I like about this quick pickle recipe is the use of rice vinegar, which is a subtle flavor, not overpowering like white or cider vinegar might be. By using the refrigerator method, there was no problem with the crunch factor. (Some canned pickles, when not done properly, can become flimsy and limp.) And you can spice them up any way you want. I used dry chili flakes, garlic, lime and mint, but you could use any type of dried chili, or fresh chili for that matter (which is what the original recipe calls for). You could also experiment with herbs, spice, ginger, citrus zest…anything your mind can imagine. Because it takes so little produce and so little time, you could make a batch every week!

I, personally, liked these better after 3-4 days, but they got good reviews from the family when they were served with the Cowboy Burgers.

Quick Pickles

5-6 pickling cucumbers
2 teaspoons chili flakes (less if you want a milder heat factor)
1 cup rice wine vinegar
2 limes, juiced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 sprigs of mint, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pack the cucumber spears into a quart jar or flat plastic storage container. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the rice wine vinegar, lime juice, chili flakes, garlic cloves, mint and salt. Pour over the cucumbers.

If using flat container, toss the cucumber with the mixture by hand and then cover. Shake the container several times a day to release additional flavor.

If using a canning jar, screw a lid on the jar, and holding the over the sink (in case of leaks) invert the jar and give it a good shake. Do this several times a day to release additional flavor.

Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.

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