There are some flavors that have die hard devotes. People who like bitter beer are Hop Heads. Hot sauce connoisseurs are chili heads. If you like desert, you have a sweet tooth. Well what about those of us crazy about vinegar and lemons or limes. Don't we deserve a moniker as well? Why can't we be something rapier like "Acid Tongues"?
You acid tongues know who you are. You'd eat a whole lemon for fun if you could. Tip the bottle of balsamic back for a swig - go ahead! For us, nothing is more emblematic of the acid tongues love of sour than a pickle. And, nothing brightens food up like the salty acidic flavors of something that has been pickled. There is solid science here people. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, salts and acids both have properties that elevate flavors present in other foods. Chefs have used vinegar in classic sauces for years. Thumb through the wonderful prose splattered between the intricate recipes in a Thomas Keller cookbook and you will find praise for vinegar in sauces is abundant.
For me, pickling is a year round thing. Classically, the pickle was a way to preserve fruits and vegetables after the fall harvest. Cabbage becomes sauerkraut. Can you imagine a meal of root veggies, slow roasted pork and sauerkraut? Very autumnal. Cucumbers become, well, pickles. How French is a baby cornichon with a pate and glass of sweet wine? In the summer months, a "quick pickle" is a lighter, easier and faster way to get the same flavors and brightness, and it really shows off that bounty of the garden.
The principal is simple
Just like a traditional pickle (excluding fermented pickles which use salt and natural bacteria to produce the tang), we are turning to salt and acid. Take a vegetable, slice it thinly, add just a little more kosher salt than you think wise, sprinkle with vinegar and there you have it. In the South our mothers and grandmothers sliced cucumbers and added cider vinegar, salt and onions to serve with grilled meats. Its not a new idea.
Things get fun when you build on the idea. At 4405 Meats and Cheeses (Aka Chez Dawson, Aka my house) our basic cucumber quick pickle is just a step away from the original idea.
- 1 seedless (sometimes called English cucumber)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/8 cup olive oil - the good stuff here
- Use a slicer (I really like this one from Kyrocera) or knife to slice the cucumber into thin rounds
- In a colander over a bowl, toss the cucumber with the salt and pepper. The salt will draw out moisture
- in a clean bowl, combine the cucumbers and vinegar, mix well
- add the olive oil, don't be afraid to use more than 1/8th of a cup
This is a time when I really like good olive oil, This Frantoia oil from Sicily is my personal favorite. It has a peppery note and a mouth feel (umami) that goes well with any quick pickle.
That's it, let it sit 10 minutes, or two days in the fridge and serve with anything from fried chicken to grilled fish. What I particularly like about these quick pickles is their ability to cut through fats, even with the olive oil.
Take the same recipe, only substitute fresh radishes. Try that with a fried pork chop!
Same pickle, add 1 clove of crushed garlic when you add the vinegar
This works particularly well with baby artichokes since the "choke" has not yet developed. However, if you take the time to remove the choke, it works fine with their adult version.
- Trim the leaves and stem down to he light green/white
- slice thinly (again, a slicer or mandolin is a godsend here)
- toss with salt and crushed garlic
- add a pinch of red chili flakes
- add the juice of 1 large lemon (myer lemons work really well here)
- add 1/8th cup of a neutral oil like canola or grape seed
- toss in a generous amount of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
The picture at the top of this post is an artichoke quick pickle with a house pickled egg - put that on toasted bread!
This is a great way to use those tiny heads of cabbage from the farmers market in the summer
- shred the cabbage using a slicer
- toss with salt, white wine vinegar
- add one small diced pickled onion (if you've made your own, otherwise a few diced cornichons will work)
- add a generous hand full of micro greens
- coat with a lavish amount of grape seed oil
There is a common theme to these pickles - salt and acid. By using just a little more of each than you would think tasty, you end up with something with a bounce on the tongue. These pickles are epic toppings for a burger or homemade sausage or hot dog. This is an easy one to play with. Pickled roasted beats with smoked sea salt...a quick pickle of baby zucchini served with goats cheese... once you have the technique, then the garden is your pickle barrell. Quick pickles are easy fast flavor boosters than work well during the hot months. Give em a try and unleash your inner Acid Tongue.