Where are the cucumers?

I did something incredibly painful tonight.  Something that, in all my years of cooking, and all my years of self inflicted pain, I have never done before.  And something, as a matter of fact, that was very much cartoon worthy.  I didn't rub my eye after seeding hot peppers.  (If I had a dollar, though, for every time I had.....).  I didn't squeeze a lemon with a paper-cut finger.  I didn't even drop something from the freezer onto the highest part of my foot.  (I swear, last time I heard a bone crack.)  Tonight, while enjoying the smokey aroma of one of my favorite seasonings, I managed to get a bunch of chipolte powder up my nose.  Oh, the sneezing that followed!
What has that got to do with the picture of pickles, you ask?  Patience, I'll get there eventually.  (Did you know those were pickles?  All those colors and textures and shapes?  They are! And not a cucumber among them....)
As I mentioned yesterday, I've been dying to do some simple pickling.  Not canning, just pickling.  In his book, Momofuku, David Chang waxes rhapsodic about the virtues of pickling.  He also advocates pickling nearly anything you can get your hands on.  After a wonderful experience recently with a pickley appetizer I decided to take his advice, and so my pickling adventure began. 
Kohlrabi, Beets, and Radishes, oh my!
The great thing about these pickles is you're not canning - you don't need to go through the time consuming (and nail biting) canning process of boiling everything and sealing it forever.  I used canning jars with the lids simply screwed on.  You could use any glass or plastic container you have with a lid.
In my farm share this week were several veggies prime for the brine.  Did I mention I'm over okra?  I decided it was time to pickle it.  We also got some beautiful green beans.  I love farm fresh green beans, and I love pickles, and having had some great pickled beans I decided to go for it.  We also got kohlrabi this week.  (Oh, kohlrabi - how I struggle to love you. In the future I'll share with you my recipe for apple and kohlrabi slaw, too.)  This week, I roasted the leaves (a la' every kale recipe out there right now - works with kohlrabi leaves to) and saved the bulb for pickling.  I can't wait to try the results. I also pickled some turnips, some radishes, red and yellow beets, and carrots.  (I purchased the beets and the carrots but every thing else came from the farm!)
I started with a master brine from the book, with a few alterations to suit my family.  My husband is a die-hard pickle fan, and he likes salty and sour more than sweet. I also love vinegar, and have been reducing the amount of sugar (even if only a little) in all my recipes lately.  So, I reduced the sugar, uppped the salt just a smidge, and increased the ratio of vinegar to water.  With that in mind, here's the brine I ended up with  - scale it up or down to fit your needs, depending on how many jars you need to fill:
Master Pickle Brine
2 cups boiling water
1 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Pour this mixture over prepared vegetables in a canning jar or other container, and refrigerate for 1 - 2 weeks.

From here, there is so much space to improvise! Use whatever vegetables you think would work.  Peel if applicable and scrub them good and clean.  I sliced most of mine to the size I thought would work best for snacking - some I quartered (beets and radishes) some I left whole (carrots, green beans and okra) and some I slided into cute little half moons (turnips and kohlrabi).  All you need to do is put the prepared veggies in a jar and pour the brine over.  In traditional canning you would smash them as tightly in the jar as possible, but for our purposes, that's not necessary.  In most cases I didn't have enough of the veggie to cram the jar full - so I just tossed in what I had, filled the jar to the top with brine, sealed it and placed it in the fridge.

Garlicy Dilly Beans, Plain Jane Carrots, and Smoky Spicy Okra
Now, I did play with the master recipe a bit.  For the veggies with their own bite and flavor I used the recipe as written.  I mean, I don't have any idea how pickled turnips or kohlrabi will turn out (although I'll let you know in two weeks!) so I stayed pretty close to the recipe.  I can play with it when I understand the flavors it produces better.
I also left the carrots and radishes alone.  Because that's what sounded good to me.

I spiced up the beans just a bit, by adding garlic and fresh dill, both from this week's share. (I think some peppers would be good in there, too. Next time!)

But oh, the okra.  And oh, my sinuses - here's where the chipolte powder comes in.  In the other cookbook I've mentioned this week, Vegan Soul Kitchen, Bryant Terry lists a recipe for smoky spicy purple okra, which inspired me.   So, here's what I ended up with there:

Spicy Pickled Okra
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tbs chipolte powder
3 or 4 cloves garlic
whole peppercorns
any hot peppers you may have in the house (I used 3, you guessed it, from my CSA share)
Several small stalks of whole, fresh dill
A canning jar full of fresh, clean okra

Add the fresh dill and the fresh peppers to the jar of fresh okra. Combine vinegar, water, salt, chipolte powder, garlic and peppercorns in a small pot, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and fill the jar with this brine.
Cover, allow to cool, and refrigerate for 1 - 2 weeks.

All of these recipes should sit and pickle for a week or two.  One week for small, thin veggies or anything you've sliced this, and two weeks for whole veggies, or anything cut particularly thick or large. Once you start eating on them they should last a month, but I bet they'll be gone within two weeks.

I think our are going to be served as snacks at a pirate party.  I mean, pirates would have had to preserve any veggies they were going to eat, right?  And what's a more salty brine than ye olde ocean, aye?


  1. There's a fabulous restaurant outside Chicago called Vie (Ian took Pat there for her birthday this week). They do seasonal, sustainable, local, INCREDIBLE cuisine. The chef, Paul Virant, pickles a lot of stuff. I had an amazing bloody mary there (w/house made juice) that was served with a smoked pickled asparagus spear. It was divine. They somehow smoked the asparagus before pickling it, MAN was it good!

  2. Yes, I'm pretty sure there will be some Blody Marys made in honor of that smoky spicy okra, for sure.....


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