Shade Market Cooking: Pickle Brine

Pickled veggies, and Bragg apple cider vinegar bottle

So often we buy vegetables with a plan on cooking them, and so often they rot in our fridge.  An estimated 28% of vegetables that are purchased are thrown in the garbage by the consumer.  Besides being a sad thing, waste has larger repercussions.  Wasting food also wastes all of the money, effort and time that go into getting produce from the farms to our tables.  Having some pickle brine handy can help reduce waste at home.  Just about any vegetable or fruit can be pickled, and pickling can preserve veggies almost indefinitely.  Not only can we reduce waste by pickling, pickles are an easy way to add some excitement to everyday meals.  Look at the menus of some of the great restaurants in the United States, and you will find pickled elements lacing everything from appetizer to dessert.  Pickle brine can be made and kept unrefrigerated until you need it.  Many cultures have developed their own distinctive methods of pickling, this recipe takes cues from a few different ones.

Makes about half a gallon of brine:

1.5 cups olive oil 

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 generous pinch red chili flake

4 cups apple cider vinegar

2 cups distilled white vinegar

3 cups water

9 Tbsp kosher salt

4.5 Tbsp sugar

  1. In a sauce pot, large enough to hold all of the liquid, heat the olive oil over a medium flame.  Once the oil is warm, not hot, add the chopped garlic and cook until lightly toasted (if you burn the garlic, you should start over.  Burnt garlic would make this brine very bitter).
  2. Add the chile flakes and cook another 30 seconds to release the aroma.
  3. Add all of the liquid, plus the salt and sugar to the pot.
  4. Bring to a boil. The purpose of this is just to dissolve the salt and sugar; as soon as the mixture boils, it is done.
  5. Remove the brine from heat and allow it to cool. 

While the new brine is still fairly hot, is a good time to start some pickling.  Simply pour the brine over whatever you want to pickle, in the container you wish to store in, and allow it to sit at room temperature.  The pickles will be ready within an hour and will continue to develop flavor as it sits in the brine.

Whatever you pickle, it should be stored in a clean dry container to ensure the longest shelf-life possible.  Canning is the best option because of the sterile environment it creates.  But for the casual pickler, a clean tupperware is great.  If you are using a metal container, make sure it is non-reactive (no aluminum or copper), as the metal will leach into the brine. Make sure all items are completely submerged in brine.

mixed pickles

 

Some suggestions for things to pickle: 1/2 inch slices of radish, 1/2 inch slices of carrot, thin slices of onion, whole cloves of garlic, cauliflower florets, thin slices of lemon, 1/2 inch slices of celery, 1/2 inch slices of fennel, whole cherry tomatoes, diced plums, diced nectarines, diced peaches, 1/2 inch slices of apples, 1/2 inch slices of pears.  The list goes on. Some cultures pickle sausages or other meats and fish.  Experimentation with pickling can be fun and rewarding, and if its a choice between throwing something away, or into some brine, what have you got to lose? 

Pickled radish and onion adorn these breakfast tacos.