by Sean Keeley, LLCC culinary specialist
This is always my favorite time of year. So many items are in season and super fresh. I think most chefs, myself included, love to hand pick product to create the evening’s special.Unless you are catering an event with a known number of guests, it is the chef’s best guestimate as to how much product to buy – sometimes leaving a surplus of items. For me that was always inspiration for the next day’s special and other times I had to preserve some items.
There are many methods to preserving food. I would like to share some simple ones, which happen to be my favorites. Pickled veggies are a great way to spice up a dish, add texture or compliment flavor profiles. Pickling vegetables has been practiced for thousands of years and was even one of Cleopatra’s beauty secrets. There is more than one way to pickle veggies. And there are lots of veggies that can be pickled other than cucumbers.
When you’re at the farmer’s market pick up some of these ingredients and with very little preparation and cooking time you’ll have something you can enjoy with your next barbeque or even with Thanksgiving dinner.
Traditional Dill Pickles
1 lb. smaller sized cucumbers
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 large sprigs fresh dill
1 c. water
3/4 c. white vinegar
1 tbsp. kosher salt
Trim ends from cucumbers and slice into spears. Pack into 2 (16-oz. glass jar along with garlic and dill.
Make brine: in a small saucepan, combine water, vinegar, and salt. Bring to a boil, stir until salt is dissolved, and remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour over cucumbers, seal jar, and shake. Let cool completely on the counter, then refrigerate until cold.
Wait at least 2 hours to eat the pickles, but the longer you wait, the more flavorful they’ll be. If you can, try waiting 24 hours.
NOTE: Use distilled, white vinegar to maintain the nice green color of the cucumbers. They will change color and size a little – using cider or red wine vinegar will taste fine, but may look a little off.
Zanahorias en escabeche, Mexican pickled carrots
3 large carrots
2 medium jalapeños
1 small sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)
Wash and dry the jars. Wash 2 wide-mouth (8-ounce) jars, lids and rings in warm, soapy water and rinse well. Set aside to dry, or dry completely by hand.
Prepare the carrots, onions, and jalapeños: Peel and slice the carrots into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Trim the stems from the jalapeños, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Halve and thinly slice the onion. Place them all in a medium bowl and toss to combine.
Pack the vegetables into the prepared jars. Pack the vegetables into the jars, making sure there is a 1/2 inch of space from the rim of the jars to the tops of the vegetables. Pack them in as tightly as you can without smashing. Add 1 garlic clove, 1 bay leaf and 1 sprig of thyme to each jar.
Make the pickling liquid. Place the vinegar, water, salt, oregano, and sugar if using in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.
Pour the brine over the vegetables. Pour the hot brine into the jars, filling each one to within 1/2 inch of the top. You might not use all the brine. Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more pickling brine if necessary.
Tightly seal the jars. Place the lids over the jars and screw on the rings until tight.
Cool the jars and then refrigerate for 24 hours. Let the jars cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Store the pickles in the refrigerator. The pickles will improve with flavor as they age — try to wait at least 24 hours before cracking them open.
Pickles Red Onion – great on tacos, burgers, barbequed anything!
1 large red onion
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch of red pepper flakes
Slice the top and bottom off the onion and then slice onion in half, from top to bottom. Remove the outer peel. Lay the cut surfaces of the onion onto the cutting board, and then slice into half-moons about 1/8″ thick using a very sharp knife. I also recommend using a mandolin for slicing the onions, especially if you like super thin or very even slices.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, sugar, and salt. Place over medium-high heat and bring mixture to a boil. Whisk until sugar and salt dissolve, then remove pan from heat and whisk in allspice and red pepper flakes.
Carefully add sliced onion to the pan and gently stir to combine. Let mixture cool completely at room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Pour into a glass container (I like to use a large canning jar), cover tightly with a lid, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. The pickled flavor will intensify over time, but it’s good to go after resting overnight in the refrigerator. This recipe is for refrigerator pickling only and needs to be stored in a refrigerator. Enjoy for up to one month.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.