Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Recipe Box: Pick a Pickled Pepper

Or carrots.  Or fennel.  Or grapes. On Monday night, I rushed home with vinegar in hand to prepare for the 18 Reasons Jam It event as well as create some down-home gifts for my relatives in Philadelphia.  It's Turkey Time people, and nothing says "thank you" on Thanksgiving like a jar of pickles.  Am I right?  I know I am.

Let me tell you this - sodium-free pickling is not only possible, it is easy and can be even more thrilling than your typically transformed cucumber.  Without salt, you become more creative with your seasonings and spices.  And if you are a nervous to create your own pickling blend, lucky for us, salt-free pickling spices already exist in cute little pre-packaged packages (available at your local Whole Foods).

So put your pot on the stove and get ready to infuse some veggies with sweet and sour tang.  Here are three zippy recipes for mind-blowing treats that can be equally impressive as an appetizer or as an accompaniment in salads, side dishes, and main courses.

Pickled Fennel 
"Licorice never tasted so good" - Me

1.  Take two bulbs of fennel, cut off stems, and slice in to crescent shaped spears

2.  Stuff fennel slices, some of the soft fennel fronds from the stem (packs extra flavor), three cloves of garlic, and two dried chili peppers into a small mason jar

3. Zest one orange and place in the mason jar with fennel

4.  Heat 2 cups of white wine vinegar, 1/2 a cup of sugar, juice from one orange, and a teaspoon of black peppercorns in a pot.  Remove from heat once it begins boiling

5.  Carefully (it's hot!) fill the mason jar with heated pickling liquid (step 4).  The heat tends to reduce the size of the fennel almost immediately, so if you have left over slices, stuff more into the jar

6.  For added punch, slice fresh ginger and put in jar as well.  Once lid is closed, shake it up, allow to cool, and stick it in the fridge.  In two days, it will be ready for munching.

Pickled Grapes 
"Not jam, not wine, just plain delicious" - Me 

As a quick disclaimer: I stole this recipe from Smitten Kitchen who was inspired by Orangette  and tweaked it according to my sodium girl needs.

1.  Pick up some plump, seedless back or red grapes and slice off the belly buttons - the top part where the stem was - of five or six handfuls.  By taking off their tops (get your mind out of the gutter) you will allow the pickling juices to seep into the fruit immediately.

2.  Fill a small mason jar with the grapes, 2 teaspoons of yellow mustard seed, and one stick of cinnamon- or, as in my case, three teaspoons of ground cinnamon because I forgot to buy cinnamon sticks

3.  Heat two cups of white wine or champagne vinegar (how fancy) in a pot with 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns.  Remove from heat once it boils

4.  Let the pickling liquid (step 3) fully cool before filling the mason jar.  This will keep the fruit from becoming too mushy

5.  Shake and shimmy your mason jar and put in refrigerator.  Will be good to go in two days.

BONUS TIP: on my quest to find a good substitute for olives, I realized that a savory grape pickle could do the trick.  I think they could act as a mischievous doppelganger in tapenade and Mediterranean salads, fooling any palate.  I can't wait to test out this theory in the weeks to come.

Pickled Carrots
"Curry in a hurry" - Me

1.  To make this as effortless as possible, buy some pre-washed, pre-peeled carrots.  I went with some beautiful yellow carrots and I think if I had more time, I may have even chosen to go with the more colorful  heirloom variety

2.  Stuff a small mason jar with carrots, three cloves of garlic, teaspoon of freshly sliced ginger, and two dried chili peppers, 1/2 a tablespoon of turmeric, 1/4 tablespoon of curry, and 1 tablespoon of salt-free pickling spices

3.  Heat 2 cups of distilled vinegar,1 cup of water, and 1/2 a cup of sugar.  Remove from heat once it is boiling

4.  Carefully fill jar with pickling liquid, wait until it is cool, and place in the fridge.  Wait 2 days before cracking open and noshing on some healthy and spicy carrot nuggets

Now wasn't that easy?  Just wait until you taste them!

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