Keep those fresh crops coming by pickling
Consider any vegetable that catches your eye at a farmers market or runs rampant in your garden. Even foods that might be thrown away otherwise, like chard stems, are surprisingly delicious pickled. Chef Renne Erickson tells us how.
Special to The Seattle Times
YOU’VE SEEN them around. House-made pickled vegetables are showing up at the toniest tables. Maybe you’ve ordered them, forking over $10 or $12 for a plate of the crunchy goodies. But have you made them at home?
Fear not. Making refrigerator pickles is easy, and it’s a great way to capture fresh produce at its peak. No canning required. All you need is brine — vinegar, sugar, salt — and flavorings like chili peppers, garlic and spices. Consider any vegetable that catches your eye at a farmers market or runs rampant in your garden. Even foods that might be thrown away otherwise, like chard stems, are surprisingly delicious pickled.
Local restaurant owner and chef Renee Erickson is a big fan of all things pickled. At her restaurants Boat Street Café, The Whale Wins, The Walrus and the Carpenter and Barnacle, Erickson regularly serves pickled fruits and vegetables. Years ago she started the retail company Boat Street Pickles, devoted to preserved fruits. Pickling, she says, is “a nice way to add texture and acidity to food.”
At her restaurants, Erickson turns to pickled shallots, red onions or garlic to jazz up meat and fish dishes. For home cooks who want to pickle like the pros, she suggests making these gems to start. Simply slice shallots or garlic very thinly, pour on vinegar, cover, and soak a few days in the fridge. Doesn’t get any simpler.
Ready to transform other vegetables? Just follow a few more steps. Erickson heats a brine of either apple-cider or white-wine vinegar, sugar and kosher salt, then adds coriander or fennel seeds, garlic and citrus peel. “Be open to experimenting,” she says. Amounts of vinegar, sugar and spices may be varied.
Baby roots may be pickled whole; other produce should be sliced into rounds or cut into bite-sized pieces (mushrooms quartered, small carrots halved lengthwise, etc.). For soft items like cherry tomatoes or rhubarb, just pour on the heated brine and let it soak, Erickson advises.
With sturdy vegetables like cauliflower, turnips and radishes, she recommends cooking in brine for a few minutes. Dainty asparagus might take just a minute or two. It’s important not to overcook veggies so they keep a little crunch, she says.
Next, just wait for the magic to happen: In a few days to a week, the zesty snacks should be ready. Stored in brine, covered in the fridge, they can last up to two or three months.
This time of year, Erickson likes to pickle fresh chanterelles she buys from Foraged and Found Edibles at farmers markets.
Expected Sept. 30, Erickson’s first cookbook — “A Boat, a Whale, & a Walrus: Menus and Stories” — contains a section on pickling and preserving. Lucky for us she is sharing her secrets.
Makes about 2 quarts
Use as a garnish for roasted fish or chicken, or in farro salad.
3 cups apple-cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
1 teaspoon toasted coriander seed
1 teaspoon toasted fennel seed
5 sprigs fresh thyme
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cups olive oil
1. In a medium saucepan, place the vinegar, salt, mushrooms, sliced garlic, seeds, thyme and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until mushrooms are tender and cooked through (3-4 minutes).
2. Remove from heat and strain the mushroom mix from the vinegar. (Keep some of the vinegar for making dressings.) Divide the cooked mushrooms into two 1-quart glass jars that have been washed and dried. Cover them with the olive oil. They will keep for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.
— Renee Erickson
Catherine M. Allchin is a Seattle freelance writer. John Lok is a Seattle Times staff photographer.