Homemade pickles in just an hour
First step: make your brine. (Bill Hogan/Tribune photo / July 28, 2010)By James P. DeWan, Special to Tribune Newspapers
July 28, 2010
A recently immigrated Irish friend was over for sandwiches, and I asked if she'd like a pickle on the side. She said she'd never had one, but would love to try it. She took one bite of the tart, crunchy spear — my favorite among the popular commercial brands — and proclaimed, "It tastes more like a cleaning product than food."
Clearly, pickles aren't for everyone. But, for those of us who crave them, now is the time to get out the brine and make a batch of quick pickles.
Why you need to learn it
The best reason for quick pickling at this time of year is the abundance of fresh vegetables found in farmers markets and backyards all summer long. The fresher the produce, the better the final product.
At the same time, it's good to remember that pickling is one of the oldest means of food preservation. It's done around the world and it works because the process encourages the growth of good bacteria which, in turn, inhibits the growth of illness-causing microorganisms. Many pickled foods go through fermentation, which can take weeks, whereas others are simply submerged in an acidic brine.
Quick pickles, which we're making today, are done for flavor rather than preservation. The results are much quicker (hence, the name), but the flavors are not as complex and they won't keep nearly as long. Still, the rewards of quick pickles are many, and with very little effort you could be enjoying them before the sun goes down tonight.
Steps to follow:
Because we're not making these pickles to be preserved, we can avoid the laborious canning process with its boiling and sterilizing and its accompanying nagging fear of lurking botulism. We're simply going to make an acidic brine and use it to soak our vegetables.
Just about anything can be quick pickled. Cucumbers are the most common choice, but any nice crisp vegetable will do: green beans, cauliflower, carrots, shallots, onions, asparagus — they all make terrific pickles.
Because there are so many different and subtle variations in pickle preparations, everything from the dilution of the vinegar to the inclusion or not of sugar to the selection of flavoring spices, we recommend starting with actual recipes rather than just diving right in. We'll give you a good one at the end of this, and the Internet is filled with gazillions more.
The steps you take:
1 Make the brine: The main ingredient in pickle brine is vinegar. White vinegar is most common, but you can also use cider vinegar, wine vinegar, pretty much anything except balsamic, which is too syrupy and would overpower your pickles. Some recipes call for straight vinegar, others dilute it with up to 3 times its volume with water.
Salt is nearly always included in the brine. It draws moisture out of the vegetables, and it encourages the growth of useful bacteria. Amounts vary, from less than a teaspoon to over a tablespoon per cup of liquid.
Many recipes include sweeteners. Sugar is most common, but you'll also see brown sugar and honey. Sweeteners are most often used when vinegar is not diluted with water.
And finally, spices. Many commercial "pickling spice" blends are available and work very well. The most common ingredients are mustard seed, dill seed, peppercorns and garlic, but any spices can be used.
The process is simple: combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar completely.
2 Prep your vegetables: Remember that the entire pickle is eaten, so depending on what you're pickling, you'll want to trim off any inedible pieces. This could be the ends of green beans or the root ends of onions or garlic. You may also prefer to cook some of your vegetables, like asparagus, first. Also, if you're cutting your vegetables into pieces, make sure they're all relatively the same size to ensure the consistency of the final product.
3 Submerge your pickles: Place your vegetables in a clean, dry glass container, then pour in the boiling brine to submerge them completely. If they're not completely covered, you can add water to bring the level of the brine up over the top. Refrigerate for at least an hour to give the brine a chance to work its magic. The longer you brine, the tastier they'll be. Quick pickles keep in the fridge for up to 10 days, and you'll be enjoying crunchy snacks all week long.
Quick pickled cucumbers
Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 2 minutes Chill: 1 hour Makes: 1 pint
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water, plus more, if needed
2 teaspoons each: kosher salt, pickling spice
1 large cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 Combine cider vinegar with 1/2-cup of water, salt and pickling spice in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil.
2 Place cucumber in a clean, dry glass container just large enough to hold all the slices. Pour boiling brine over cucumber slices to cover completely. If all cucumbers are not submerged, add cold water to cover. Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour. Pickles will keep for about 10 days.
Nutrition information: Per 2 slices: 3 calories, 0% of calories from fat, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 80 mg sodium, 0 g fiberw
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jeudi 29 juillet 2010
Prep Schools: how to make quick pickles