Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Put Up The Harvest: Curried Cauliflower and Jerked Beet Pickles

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"In a pickle." Goodness knows Lafayette (pictured above) finds himself in one quite often.

A phrase with quite a bad connotation, etymologists suggest that it came up from the process of making pickles -- that to do so, you would "stir, confuse, and mix" vegetables, or meat, or eggs in sour broth, and in doing so, preserve them in that particular state. Similarly, when we speak about someone "in a pickle," they are stuck, are bound, are in a state from which they cannot escape.

Frankly, that explanation's fine, if a little pejorative. For you see, while it may describe the life of a pickle -- solitary, sour, suspended (and in my house, soon to be eaten) -- it fails to express the joy that pickles can bring to an eater. The word "pickled," by itself, isn't much better, describing someone three sheets to the wind (if I may mix my metaphors).

And while a good pickle can provide an intoxicating effect, too many people buy them in jars rather than make them at home.

I get it, too -- who wants to sterilize jars, boil gallons upon gallons of water for processing, and, worst of all, wait weeks to eat the final product?

Well, fear no more. Today, I'm going to show you how to make two great "refrigerator" pickles; both of them easy, palate-pleasing, and ready to eat within 24 hours. Best of all, the recipes below are just a framework -- by following these steps, you can create flavors no grocery store will ever match.

Let's get to it.
Curried Cauliflower and Jerked Beet Pickles
Serves many as an appetizer

Curried Cauliflower
1 and 1/2 Cups White Vinegar
2 Tablespoons White Sugar
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
1 Clove Garlic (chopped)
1/2-inch piece fresh Ginger, chopped
4 Cups Water
1 Head Cauliflower
1 Tablespoon Tumeric (dried or fresh)
2 Tablespoons Cumin (whole or ground)
1 teaspoon Cinnamon (ground)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds (whole)
1 Tablespoon hot pepper flakes

Jerked Beet Pickles
1 and 1/2 Cups White Vinegar
1 Tablespoons White Sugar
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
4 Cups Water
1 Pound of Golden Beets
1 clove Garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme (dried or fresh)
1 teaspoon allspice (ground or whole)
1/2 teaspoon cloves (ground or whole)
1 Tablespoon onion powder (optional)
2 Tablespoons hot pepper flakes
Editor's Note: We apologize for the picture quality in this post -- we're in the process of working out a few bugs with our regular close-up camera, and so have had to make-do with a "point-n-shoot."

Start by peeling your beets and chopping your cauliflower. After that, in two separate saucepans, combine each batch's vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. This ratio will make pretty pungent pickles; if you want a milder snack, lower the vinegar to one cup -- if you're really looking to twist your tongue, go with two cups.

Next, add the respective spices into each batch. Here's the cauliflower brine:

...and here's the beet brine:

Bring both brines to a rolling boil and turn on your exhaust fan. Open a window as well, if you can -- the smell can be quite pungent.

Add the veggies into their respective pots. After five minutes, shut off the cauliflower. After ten, shut off the beets. Leaving the veggies in the brine, remove the pots from the stove and set somewhere to cool.

Once the veggies are cool, transfer them to a glass jar or Tupperware, cover them with cooled brine, and refrigerate until cold; they'll be ready to eat immediately. These "refrigerator" pickles will last up to one week. Of course, that's if you let them. The final product:

These are a wonderful addition to any summer meal: full of flavor yet refreshing, familiar yet original, as welcome next to a hamburger as it is next to a charcuterie plate. Start by making these. I think you'll get hooked. From there, using the water/vinegar/sugar/salt ratio above, sub in almost any veggie and and whatever spices/herbs your heart desires. (Shine on, you crazy diamond.)

Bring these to a picnic (if you don't eat them all first) and leave with some new friends. Next time, we'll be putting together a refreshingly bitter digestivo by way of Italia...

Music: Phish: Sample in a Jar (live)

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