I love just about any thing pickled. I am especially fond of half-sour pickles. They are just about the best. It is all about the brine. That salty, yet with an earthy spiced taste.
You can pickle just about any thing at all. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I made some pickled red onions and pickled jalapenos for a BBQ we had. Everyone loved them. Here is what they look like:
Pickling has been around a long time. It is one of the best methods to preserve food when there was no refrigeration. Nearly every culinary culture has some form of pickling. The recipe is quite basic.
Pickling is truly quick and easy to do. Pickled items not only go great on hamburgers, franks, chops, and steaks, they can be added to cut the richness of sauces while adding that dimension of flavor. I like it when I add it to top off a smoked pork butt.
I use a boiling method of pickling as it think it comes out better than the other methods. The trick is to let the liquid return to room temperature before putting in what you want to pickle. Some people prefer to cook the food in the brine for about a minute, blanching it, and then letting it come to room temperature before refrigerating it.
You probably have everything already on hand in your pantry. First you need to get pickling salt or make your own, some vinegar and then your pickling spices. The one thing you must never use is regular table salt. This has added ingredients you do not want in your pickling liquid.
Pickling salt is super fine salt. Typically, it is kosher or sea salt that has been ground to a smaller size grain. Therefore, one tablespoon of pickling salt is a lot more salt than a tablespoon of kosher or sea salt. You can use kosher or sea salt, but you have to use more of it to modify the recipe that calls for pickling salt.
I prefer a mix of white and apple cider vinegar, but you could use red wine, sherry, or the classic is rice wine vinegar because of it mellow taste. Some pickling salt and sugar and then your pickling spices. A lot of these pickling spices you may already have in your pantry. Should you not have them, when you go to your local supermarket check the spice aisle for "pickling spices all rolled up in one package.
The pickling spices include:
Chili powder or red pepper flakes
It is truly easier just to buy pickling spice already prepared, but if you want to make your own all you need to do:
2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon chli powder or red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dill seeds
2 bay leaves, crumbled
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
6 whole cloves
Here is what you need:
Mix all the pickling spices together until they are well incorporated.
When doing red onions:
1 large red onion cut into rounds about an eighth of an inch thick. Set aside.
When doing jalapenos:
5 large jalapeno sliced into small ringlets. Leave the seeds to bring out their heat. Set aside.
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp sugar or substitute 3 tbsp of agave nector
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp pickling spice
Here is how to make it:
In a non-reactive sauce pot mix together the vinegars and all of the pickling spices.
Bring the pickling liquid to a boil and allow to boil for three minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the red onions or jalapeños.
Stir continuously and allow to slowly boil for one minute or until the color starts to turn pale.
Immediately remove it from the heat and poor it into a glass bowl. (Note: Do not use a metal or plastic bowl.)
Allow to cool for 15-minutes and place in the fridge to cool completely. This will take upward of 5 hours.
Place in bottling jars and keep refrigerate.
How to make pickling salt from kosher or sea salt
Canning & Pickling salt can be easily made by whirring kosher salt in a blender or spice grinder (or a handy-dandy coffee grinder used for the specific purpose of grinding every kind of seed, bean and grain, but never used to grind coffee).
Take about a cup of kosher salt and ran it through the grinder. It will get it pretty fine, which helps to make sure that it can dissolve properly in the pickling process. Store the salt it in a mason jar next to your kosher or sea salt.
This is the same salt that theaters use to salt their butter popcorn. It is finer and adheres to the popcorn much better than any other salt. Sprinkle it over the next bag of microwave popcorn you pop.