Author Andrea Chesman Says Pickling Is For Much More Than Cucumbers
“You can pickle it!,” says food writer and cookbook author Andrea Chesman in her cookbook, The Pickled Pantry, where she presents more than 150 recipes (from apples to zucchini) for pickles, relishes, chutneys and more. “Why limit yourself to cucumbers, when pickling brings out the best in so many vegetables and fruits?” she asks.
Chesman offers plenty of pickling recipes for the “crisp cucumbers you’ve always loved—dills, half-sours, bread and butters,” but she also provides “delicious ideas for pickling everything from carrots to rhubarb, cabbage to pineapple. It doesn’t matter whether you have a few fresh-picked cucumbers or 10 pounds of beets, we’ve got a recipe that fits your needs.”
The Pickled Pantry is filled with “Single-jar recipes, big-harvest ideas, relishes, chutneys, fermented pickles and krauts, and freezer and refrigerator variations provide pickling solutions for every situation. And once your pantry is fully stocked, Chesman provides recipes for 36 delicious ways to use your pickles in prepared dishes.”
She says, “People come to pickling for so many reasons. Some people are motivated by sheer love of eating all things sour. Others are practical do-it-yourselfers who pickle to preserve excess produce or to extend their options for eating local year-round. Still others are preserving tradition. I came to pickling for a combination of all those reasons.”
Chesman notes, “Pickling happens all over the world, and with all sorts of ingredients. It is a process that preserves food by increasing its acidity and making an inhospitable environment for the microbes responsible for spoilage. Some pickles are fermented, a process in which anaerobic bacteria are encouraged to convert naturally-occurring sugars in the food to lactic acid. The lactic acid is what flavors authentic kosher dills, sauerkraut, and kimchi. It is also responsible for preserving the vegetables.
“Other pickles, especially traditional American and British pickles, are infused with vinegar and canned or refrigerated for long-term storage,” she adds, “You can pickle just about every fruit and vegetable—and eggs, fish, and meats.
“The difference between a good pickle and a great pickle is often the freshness of the ingredients you use,” she continues, “Select young, even slightly immature fresh fruits and vegetables. The less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables that you harvest or buy can be used in cooked relishes, but not when you are making whole or sliced pickles. Chill your produce as quickly and thoroughly as possible. This is particularly important with cucumbers and zucchini if you want a crisp pickle—and who doesn’t?”
Chesman concludes, “Your fruits and vegetables will make crisper pickles if they are harvested early in the day, before they have been wilted by the heat of the sun. Then it is important to get that produce pickled or chilled as soon as possible. Ideally, you should make your produce into pickles as soon as you harvest.”
Here is Chesman’s single-jar pickle recipe for Mixed Pickled Peppers:
Mixed Pickled Peppers (By the quart)
“It is the mixture of colors and the slight variations in flavor that make these mixed peppers so appealing. Including hot peppers in the mix adds heat. How much depends on the type of chile and whether it is left whole (for mild spice) or halved (for more heat).”
- 1-1/4-cups cider vinegar
- 1-1/4-cups water, plus more water as needed
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon pickling or fine sea salt
- 4 cups seeded and quartered or halved mixed sweet peppers (red, yellow, orange, green, or chocolate, or other sweet peppers
- 1-2 hot chiles, left whole, or halved and seeded (optional)
“Combine the cider vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
While the vinegar mixture heats, pack a clean, hot, one-quart canning jar with the peppers so their outer skins face out in the jar (it looks pretty that way). Pour in the hot vinegar mixture, leaving ½-inch headspace. Top off with boiling water, if needed. Remove any air bubbles and seal.
Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.. Let cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool, dry place. Do not open for at least 6 weeks to allow the flavors to develop.
Kitchen Note: Pickled peppers are terrific on top of crackers and cheese, or added to cheese sandwiches. They can be julienned and added to salads of all types. They are also pretty tasty straight out of the jar.”