I am not sure if it is a good thing to see pickling get a big spread in the main stream media. This story in the LA Times does a great job of the basics behind pickling. I am all for bringing pickling to the masses by making it accessible. I get a little nervous though that it may start getting trendy. A food trend is a dangerous beast which cannot be tamed. It starts with a genuine article on something like chipotles in abode sauce and ends up corrupted into a mass-market product like Chipotle Flavor Doritos. The beast can rear in another direction, taking something that has always been humble yet good and turning it into the next “hit” item for adoring foodies to salivate over. Think pork bellies, ramps or the infamous charcutterie. I have loved pickles long before the expected groups of foodies arrived and will continue to love them long after Lays discontinues any pickle-based product line. (Route 11 does make some kickass pickle flavored chips though.)
All ranting and fear mongering aside, the LA Times piece was a great article and included some great recipes. The first one I tried was for pickled zucchini. The word “pickle” has become synonymous with pickled cucumber, but the truth is you can pickle almost any type of vegetable. Since zucchinis are cheap and plentiful throughout the summer, they are a prime target for pickling. This type of pickle doesn’t rely on fermentation for its acidity, like sour pickles, but rather vinegar is used to preserve and flavor the pickles.
This recipe is from the great Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. I have only been there once and had a great meal, but I didn’t get to try any pickles. I also found another Zuni Cafe recipe for pickles, this time for onions. Based on how well the zucchini recipe worked, I will have to give it a try.
These pickles get their crispness from a soak in a chilled salt brine and their color from turmeric, which is added to the pickling liquid. Turmeric is great at coloring things, so great that you have to be careful. Store the pickles in a non-staining plastic or glass container. If you wear any color other than yellow while making these pickles, do so at your own risk. You have been warned. If give this recipe a try, however, you will be rewarded with brilliant pickles both in flavor and color.
Zuni Café zucchini picklesIngredients:
- 1 pound zucchini
- 1 small yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed yellow and/or brown mustard seeds
- Scant 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Wash and trim the zucchini, then slice them one-sixteenth-inch thick; a mandoline works best. Slice the onion very thin as well. Combine the zucchini and onions in a large but shallow nonreactive bowl, add the salt and toss to distribute. Add a few ice cubes and cold water to cover, then stir to dissolve the salt. Alternatively, transfer the salted zucchini and onion slices to a Japanese pickle maker and screw down the top; do not add any water or ice cubes.
- After about 1 hour, taste and feel a piece of zucchini — it should be slightly softened. Drain and pat dry.
- Combine the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds and turmeric in a small saucepan and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside until just warm to the touch. (If the brine is too hot, it will cook the vegetables and make the pickles soft instead of crisp.)
- Return the zucchini to a dry bowl and pour over the cooled brine. Stir to distribute the spices. Transfer the pickle to jars, preferably ones that have “shoulders” to hold the zucchini and onions beneath the surface of the brine. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to mellow and permeate the zucchini, turning them a brilliant chartreuse color.