Dill pickles: whole, spears or chips. Bread and butter pickles. These were the extent of my pickle exposure growing up, and still the dominant, basic pickles found at the typical grocer. I thought dill was just a kind of pickle and had no idea it was an herb. In fact, I never really liked dill and now change it out for herbs I do love. As a kid, I always asked for extra pickles for my cheeseburger. You either love them or hate them!
Luckily, other pickles have found their way to the shelves: Eastern European sauerkraut, Italian giardiniera, Mexican escabeche, pickled jalapenos, banana peppers, and more! Pickles celebrate a culture, putting a unique stamp on the flavor of a people. Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria so by consuming fermented foods you are adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your overall intestinal flora, increasing the health of your gut microbiome and digestive system and enhancing the immune system.
Fermentation is the breakdown of carbs like starch and sugar by bacteria and yeast and an ancient technique of preserving food. Common fermented foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, kombucha, and yogurt. These foods may reduce heart disease risk and aid digestion, immunity, and weight loss. Pickles are good for you! Yay to gut health!
Makes liquid for TWO ONE-QUART JARS
2 cups vinegar- white, red wine, rice wine, apple cider (any of these, or a combination)
2 cups water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
4–6 tablespoons sugar (sugar is added for flavor, so feel free to cut back you like)
Basic pickles are meant to be eaten over 2-3 weeks, but canning is for more long-term storage and is much more involved than “quick” pickling.
Begin filling up your mason jars with any combination of veggies you know you love, layering with whole spices, aromatics (onion, ginger, garlic) and herbs (fresh and/or dried). This is the fun part, choosing veg, carefully cutting into shapes you’d like to feed to your face, mixing and matching the ingredients.
While you are filling the jars, heat the pickling liquid on the stove and bring it to a boil. Carefully pour hot the pickling liquid over the veggies completely submerging. Leave about a ½ inch space between the top of the liquid and the lid. Cover with the lid, cooling on the counter for a couple of hours before placing the fridge. They will begin to have flavor the next day, and after a few days, they will taste even better. These will last 2-3 weeks in the fridge.
Korean gochujang or red chili paste is a savory, sweet, and spicy fermented condiment made from chili powder, glutinous rice, meju powder, yeotgireum, and salt. The sweetness comes from the starch of cooked glutinous rice, cultured with saccharifying enzymes during the fermentation process.
The following kimchi recipe shows you how to make your own gochujang paste, but you can find it in Asian specialty stores like Fox Farm. Kimchi was an acquired taste for me. I love sour and I love pickles, but this particular flavor of pickling was a complete shock to my taste buds. In fact, I bought a version of kimchi sold at Walmart and compared my homemade version with the store-bought. Very similar profile, but of course, the homemade kimchi was brighter, fresher, and the veg were still a bit crunchy.
Makes 1 quart
1 medium head napa cabbage (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup iodine-free sea salt or kosher salt
Water, preferably distilled or filtered
1 tablespoon grated garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce or salted shrimp paste, or 3 tablespoons water
1 to 5 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes (gochujaru)
8 ounces Korean radish or daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks
4 medium scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Cut the cabbage lengthwise through the stem into quarters. Cut the cores from each piece. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit. Add enough water to cover the cabbage. Put a plate on top of the cabbage and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar or can of beans. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours. Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times. Set aside to drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the spice paste.
Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting. Add the garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce, shrimp paste, or water and stir into a smooth paste. Stir in the gochujaru, using 1 tablespoon for mild and up to 5 tablespoons for spicy (I like about 3 1/2 tablespoons); set aside until the cabbage is ready.
Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and add it to the spice paste. Add the radish and scallions. Using your hands, gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. The gloves are optional here but highly recommended to protect your hands from stings, stains, and smells. Pack the kimchi into a 1-quart jar. Press down on the kimchi until the brine (the liquid that comes out) rises to cover the vegetables, leaving at least 1 inch of space at the top. Seal the jar.
Place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow. Let the jar stand at cool room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 1 to 5 days. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out of the lid. Check the kimchi once a day, opening the jar and pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. (This also releases gases produced during fermentation.) Taste a little at this point, too! When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but it's best after another week or two.
Kimchi can be refrigerated for up to a few months. Use clean utensils each time to extract the kimchi from the jar.