It’s been decided. I am going to do a lot of pickling and canning this year. I am not sure where this obsession for pickling and canning came from because up until this week I had never pickled or canned anything. I think it stems from the fact that I recently discovered pickling something doesn’t mean that it will taste like a pickle. Turns out, pickling is just a fancy word for preserving, and you can pickle just about anything. Just some of the things you can pickle include grapes, swiss chard, pumpkin, and asparagus. When you get down to it (and by get down to it, I mean Google search it) the list of pickleable items is infinite!
This winter I volunteered with an organization called Common Threads. Their mission is to teach low-income kids how to cook healthy and affordable meals and introduce them to various countries around the world through that particular country’s cuisine. It was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait until the school year starts up so I can volunteer with them again in the fall. If anyone reading this is interested in volunteering with Common Threads, they have classes in Chicago, Washington D.C., Miami, and Los Angeles. I would highly recommend it even if you are a cooking disaster! Each class is lead by a chef instructor so you don’t need cooking experience to volunteer, just a positive attitude and lots of enthusiasm.
So, what does this have to do with pickling? Well, since the recipes we cook mainly utilize fresh ingredients, volunteers often get to take home perishable items that can’t be saved for use in future classes. In order to cut down on fat and maximize flavor, the recipes use bold ingredients like wasabi, lemon zest, fresh basil, and ginger. These types of ingredients elevate the flavor in ordinary dishes by packing them with the punch that people usually get from fatty cooking methods like frying. Subsequently, I ended up with more ginger than I knew what to do with and decided to experiment with pickling. Pickled ginger is always served alongside sushi and, if you are anything like me, you enjoy the ginger more than the actual sushi. 🙂
I found the recipe below on about.com and feel it came out wonderfully. I didn’t have 2 pounds of ginger so I cut the recipe in half and still had way more brine than I needed. You can adjust the ingredients based on how much ginger you have, but you want to keep the proportions as close to the ones below the best you can. One thing to note, you should really use a mandoline when slicing the ginger. You want it to be sliced very thinly (think of the ginger you get at a sushi restaurant) and that is really difficult to do with a knife. Also, because ginger is so knobby, the easiest way to peel it is to use a spoon to scrape off the skin. The skin is very thin and will come off easily if you use this method.
Pickled Ginger (Gari)
- 2 lb fresh ginger
- 2 tsps salt
- 3 cups rice vinegar
- 2 cups sugar
- Wash and peel your ginger root.
- Slice the ginger thinly using #1 on your mandoline, salt them, and let them sit for about an hour.
- After an hour, transfer ginger slices to a sterilized jar.
- Bring rice vinegar and sugar to a boil and pour the hot mixture over the ginger slices.
- Cool to room temperature, refrigerate, and let sit for 24 hours.
- If you want the ginger to have that nice pinkish color it has at a sushi restaurant, add a few drops of red food coloring.
Next on the list of pickled perishables is pickled watermelon rind. Phew! Say that three times fast.
I had never heard of pickled watermelon rind, but if you are from the South, chances are you grew up eating it around the holidays, and this recipe won’t even come close to your grandmother’s pickled watermelon rind. This was my first bout with pickled watermelon rind, and I think it turned out great. However, keep in mind I have nothing to compare it to.
I combined a recipe I found on The Bitten Word with one from Epicurious and used the rind from a 3.5 pound watermelon. One thing I have to tell you before we get too deep into the recipe is that pickled watermelon rind is VERY time consuming. It isn’t hard to make, but there are two times where you have to let the rind sit overnight. So, if you want to serve this at an upcoming dinner party, plan accordingly. The allspice and cloves really shine through in this recipe and the saltiness of the vinegar is more of an aftertaste than one you taste up front. I read online that pickled watermelon rind pairs well with pork, but I think it would be fantastic heated up and served with vanilla ice cream.
Pickled Watermelon Rind
Combined recipes from The Bitten Word and Epicurious
FYI: The recipe below can probably handle the rind from 6-7 pounds of watermelon. I thought 3.5 pounds was a “medium” sized watermelon, but I guess that is a small watermelon.
- 3 quarts water
- 3/4 cup salt
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 24 whole cloves
- 12 whole black peppercorns
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon pickling spice
- 15 whole allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (Fresh would have been idea, but I didn’t save any from the recipe above. Oops!)
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced, with seeds removed
Using a very sharp knife, trim the pink flesh and the green outer skin from the rind. Cut the rind into small strips, about 1″ x 2″. Combine 3 quarts water and 3/4 cup salt, add to the rind, and refrigerate overnight.
- Drain the rind and rinse.
- Cover the rind with water and bring to a boil. Cook until fork-tender, about another 10 minutes. Be mindful of the tenderness, overcooking will cause the rinds to become rubbery. Drain and transfer rind to a bowl.
- Combine water, sugar, vinegar, and spices. Boil 5 minutes and pour over watermelon. Add lemon slices. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight.
Day 3 – I warned you this was time consuming!
- Heat watermelon in syrup to boiling; reduce heat to medium-high and simmer for one hour. Pack the hot watermelon pickles loosely into clean, hot canning jars. Cover with boiling syrup, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal lids.
- To seal: Submerge the full jars in boiling water (enough water so the jars are 1-2″ below the surface); boil for 15 minutes. Remove jars and let them sit undisturbed at room temperature for 24 hours. Check seals.