Fermented or brined, pickles are paramount

Applegate residents Kirsten and Christopher Shockey have been fermenting vegetables for the past 15 years, long before home preserving or probiotics were trendy.

Their cookbook, “Fermenting Vegetables,” is hitting shelves as mainstream interest in the topic is peaking. Read more about it in this week’s food section.

The Shockeys’ is one of several new books in the genre, appealing, according to experts, because fermented foods have been missing from the American diet for so long. And chefs are tapping into the pungency and lively flavors of pickling.

Pickles, whether fermented or brined, are paramount within a good meal, says San Francisco cookbook author and instructor Karen Solomon. Balancers of flavors and textures, they are “bright, savory, deep, unctuous” condiments that add salt and contrast richness.

Solomon’s new book, “Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured and Fermented Preserves” (Ten Speed Press, $19.99, 200 pages) is another DIY guide, albeit shorter than the Shockeys’. Five regions — Japan, Korea, China, India and Southeast Asia — are represented in 75 authentic recipes, according to a recent story from McClatchy News Service.

Now that I’ve quick-pickled some radishes from my garden with mouth-watering results, I may tackle fermenting the root vegetable. Solomon created this variation on the classic daikon kimchee with the smaller, yet fiery, pink radish, greens and roots attached.

More in the beginner’s repertoire is Thai Pickled Cabbage, Solomon’s canvas for the flavors of fish sauce, garlic, ginger and chili that cures in lime juice.

MCT photo

Summer Radish Kimchee

2 large bunches of salad radishes, greens and roots attached

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup gochujang (a fermented red chili paste), homemade or store-bought

Wash the radishes well, particularly greens. Slice each radish in half lengthwise, leaving some of greens attached to each half. In a large bowl, toss radishes with the salt, really rubbing it into radish bulbs and greens. Cover with a drop lid or a plate and place a 1 1/2 -pound weight on top; let sit for 1 hour.

Rinse radishes well under running water. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze greens with all your might, getting out as much moisture as possible. Return radishes to bowl and, using your hands, massage in the garlic and gochujang evenly. Press down firmly on radishes to make them compact. Place a layer of plastic wrap directly, but loosely, on top of pickle, leaving room for air to come in along sides. Replace drop lid or plate and weight. Cover bowl loosely with a kitchen towel to allow air in, and keep out insects and debris. Let pickle sit in a cool, dark place for 2 to 3 days, until it has a pleasantly tangy, fermented aroma.

Toss pickle to coat with liquid. Pack it into a 1-pint jar. Your pickle is ready to eat. Refrigerated, it will keep for 3 months. Makes about 2 cups.


Thai Pickled Cabbage

1 1/2 pounds Napa cabbage

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1/2 cup lime juice

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely minced or put through a press

2/3-inch piece peeled, fresh ginger, finely minced

1 small jalapeno chili

Discard tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Quarter cabbage lengthwise and chop into 1-inch pieces. Place in a large colander. Sprinkle the salt over cabbage; combine thoroughly with your hands. Let it sit in sink for 20 minutes; stir it once halfway through — you’ll notice that cabbage has started to wilt and get wet.

In a large bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and ginger. Stem the jalapeno, slice it into very thin rounds and add it to bowl.

Rinse cabbage with cool water to get rid of some salt. Squeeze it very firmly and repeatedly to expel as much moisture as you can, then let it drain well; if it is too wet, it will dilute your pickle.

Add drained cabbage to brine; toss to combine. This pickle can be eaten straight away, but it is much better the next day. Unused portions can be refrigerated for at least 3 weeks. Makes about 4 cups.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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