Sunday, October 21, 2007

For the Love of Pickles

I am probably one of the many perplexed people who cannot quite fathom the logic or origins of their particular food cravings, but I was especially bewildered that on a very cold and rainy summer day I could think of nothing but pickles. I had been hunting for the perfect recipe—envisioning thick pink pickled red onion slices, or delicate farm grown carrots tightly packed in a jar with suspended chilies and garlic cloves. I marvel at the one tracked determination I have in these moments, as I am often thinking about 10 different things at once. Why on such a cool day would I be obsessed with pickles and their brine, and not a warm mushroom soup or a bowl full of little necked clams in wine and brothy butter? Or even my lunch that day-- a delightful makeshift corn and black bean salad with cilantro and red bell pepper? No, I was determined. Bound and determined to make pickles.

Sadly, it had been a couple of years since I ventured into the pickle-making arena, so I was thrilled to return. I remembered it as a painless process and sure enough, it was just a matter of pouring the boiling concoction of water, vinegar, and spices over the chosen pickling victim. A few months ago, we were eating at David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar and I came across some of the more innovative pickles I have ever had—the pickle bowl was full of seasonal spring bounty: asparagus, green onion, cantaloupe, fresh water chestnuts, cauliflower, golden beets, lychee, and of course, traditional cabbage kimchi. The pickling brine was a bit sweet and salty and Chang has been kind enough to give us his sweet and sour recipe, which I will most certainly try sometime in the near future. Fortunately, I also discovered a recipe for pickled red onions that looks terrific from one of my favorite food bloggers, Orangette (a.k.a Molly Wizenberg). The recipe was adapted from the Zuni Café cookbook, and while I did want to attempt the original recipe, at that moment I wanted my pickles quickly, meaning I did not want to cool my onions after brining three times(!). Fortunately, she recommended a variation that I tried with great success which does not require a time-consuming cooling process. Instead, you boil the brine and stir in the onions after removing them from the heat. It was ridiculously easy. I made them for the first time for my friend’s birthday (risky, I know…) and they turned out to be one of the easiest and best things I made all summer. They were amazing with the Indian food I made the next night, incredible in a quesadilla I made the next day (ok, I did save some for myself) and I even convinced my mom to make them for a recent trip home. I had them with baguette and paté and also with a thick slice of cheddar. I am utterly convinced that they would be great on everything- what an amazing discovery!

Adapted from Orangette’s Quick Pickled Red Onions

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 black peppercorns
2 medium red onions

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium saucepan, and place over medium heat.
Heat the brine while you peel and trim the onions, and cut them in full circles (half moons are fine too). Try to keep your slices as uniform as possible and no thicker than ¼ an inch thick.

When the brine boils, add the onion slices all at once, and stir to combine. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for 25-30 minutes.
Once the onions have cooled, pour them and their brine into jars with tight-fitting lids, and store in the refrigerator. Unlike other types, these quick pickles are ready to be eaten as soon as they are cold.

These pickles will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Jane said...

Hi Juree, my mother is an avid maker of pickles, jams, and marmalade's, often made from the produce she grows in her own garden. I'm going to send her the link for this recipe (it sounds great!), but do you also have any favorite marmalade recipe's?

blair said...

As Juree's brother I at times get a chance to try/am forced at gun point to make some of her recipes in order to make sure that one the recipe is repeatable as any scientific study, and most importantly, it tastes good.

I can without prejudice report that these onions are not only easy to make but taste fantastic as well....I use them with a dish that I got from a Restaurant in the DC area, , I use them in shrimp tacos, with pico de gallo, and an avocado yourself and make these they can accompany most things in he savory realm and will generally work with the flavors!

Attia said...

Thanks a lot, Blair - now I'm going to be craving fish tacos all week. I may have to pretend it's still August so that I can make my very favorite summer meal, maybe even with a cold beer on the side. Good thing it's in the high 70's today!

j said...

Heavenly! As the lucky recipient of said pickles, I was eating well for a week! put them on everything, but I particularly enjoyed them on quesadillas!

Anonymous said...

I have issues with sugar (can't have it) so I used Stevia instead and it turned out just great...I was able to indulge and not worry about any ill effects.
Keep more of these simple recipes coming!

JENNIFER said...

I was waiting for some zucchini bread to finish baking when I realized that I had all the ingredients for these pickles on hand, so I went for it. Easy prep, beautiful color, yummy results. I think they will go really well with a warm lentil salad and some Tillamook cheddar. (Guess what I'll be having for dinner tonight!)

A question for you! I am not a huge fan of raw carrots, but I looove the pickled kind you can get at Thai/Asian restaurants. How would I go about getting those results in my own kitchen? I am thinking white vinegar rather than cider, but what would you suggest?

Juree said...

Jennifer, I LOVE the idea of eating the onion pickles with
lentils-- especially with winter coming up!

I also really enjoy the pickled carrots at Thai and vietnamese restaurants. I found a recipe for them here:

Let me know how they turn out!

Smeck! said...

Sounds pretty awesome, Juree. I have an urge to try these as a hot dog topping along with a slice of avocado. Ever pickle lemons? I've been meaning to try that as well...

Juree said...

Smeck! It is good to hear from you... these would be terrific on hot dogs-- I paired them with a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich last night and they were great as well.
As much as I LOVE lemons, I have actually never tried to pickle them. I will look around for some recipes!

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