Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Pickled vegetables

Some recipes offer instant gratification while others require a longer wait before you can taste the rewards. This is one of those recipes because it involves pickling, a method of preserving food in liquid concoctions with varying amounts of salt, sugar and acid.

My love for pickles go beyond the dill cucumber slices found in cheeseburgers, or the almost flourescent green and yellow pickles in a Japanese bento. No, I too love the spicy and sour achar pickles made from a combination of fruit and vegetables commonly found as an accompaniment in some South-East Asian cuisines. And lately, I have become obsessed with pickled garden vegetables also known as giardiniera- colourful, fresh and lip-puckeringly delicious!

There are numerous recipes for giardiniera about and this is my version which works for me because I prefer my pickles less sweet. You can always personalise your pickles by altering the proportions of salt, sugar and vinegar, and by adding different aromats like mustard seeds, garlic, coriander seeds and so on. Although there are no strict rules to pickling, I tend to keep to an approximate ratio of 1 part sugar to 3 parts vinegar and I always salt my vegetables before placing them into clean jars with the hot pickling solution. It is imperative that the vegetables are completely submerged in the pickling solution.

Obviously, the vinegar you use will determine the flavour of your pickles so use a fairly good and light sort like malt vinegar, cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or a combination. Also, pickling cannot give tired old vegetables a new life so please don't be tempted to even try. Choose vegetables like carrots, celery, cauliflower, stringless beans, capsicums, zucchini and turnips that have a robust structure so they remain crisp and yielding to the bite.

It has been 48 hours since I started on the pickles, the solution has turned a rosey hue courtesy of the radish, chillies and red onion, and the vegetables have achieved quite the perfect texture and flavour. The recipes I read suggested storing them for up to 2 weeks in a cool dark place before use but they will probably get eaten before then.

My suggestion is you keep the pickles in the refrigerator so you can enjoy them well-chilled. A very fresh tasting accompaniment to grilled meats or fish or just as part of an antipasto platter.

crisp pickled vegetables
1/2 head of cauliflower
3 medium carrots, peeled
2 yellow/orange capsicums
4 celery stalks
1 bunch of radish
1 medium red onion
3 large red chillies
4 tablespoon table salt
2 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon red mustard seeds
5 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
250ml white wine vinegar
500ml champagne vinegar
250ml water
200g white sugar
(4 1L jars)
wash clean and dry 4 1L capacity jars
wash vegetables thoroughly
cut vegetables into more or less the same size
salt vegetables
divide salted vegetables and aromats amongst the jar
dissolve sugar in both vinegars and water
bring pickling solution to a boil
pour solution into the jars carefully making sure the vegetables are completely immersed
store in a cool dark place (I keep mine in the fridge)

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