Pickled vegetables

Pickling is applied as a preservation method to many kinds of food: fruits, vegetable, fish, even meat – pickled lamb tongues are a particularly delicious pickled food.

In the western kitchen pickling is often based on use of vinegar – or alcohol – and sugar – or honey or other sweetener. And the pickled vegetables are eaten as accompaniment. In other kitchens you find pickles – or preserved vegetables/fruits – rather based on other processes such as salt, brine or fermentation, producing products that can be enjoyed on their own as a snack.

The coming months I will be taking you through my attempt to set up my own production of Japanese pickles. Tsukemono or rather the variety called Nukazuke which is based on softening the vegetables in fermenting cereal bran. The advantage is that you can have a continuous ongoing production, taking the vegetables straight from your pickling jar when you need them and adding new as you go along.

The first trick however is to get the necessary ingredients, the right pot and find the right spot in the house to keep the pot. Sufficiently warm to keep the process going but not too warm to start it all rotting. The traditional main ingredient is the bran of rice. This however is difficult to find in Europe. It is not impossible, but it is difficult as I have realised after 4 weeks of searching for it in Bruxelles and on the net. In fact you can substitute it for bran from other cereal more readily available in Europe, though taste may differ. This is however what I will do.

Next challenge is to find the right pot. A traditional European – or North European pickling jar – a clay pot with a salt glazing – would be excellent, but again difficult to find. Other pots of clay with a glazing or metal are possible substitutes. Next time I will tell you about my attempts to start the fermentation process and pickling. Stay tuned.

In the meantime I while leave you with the recipe of a traditional Danish pickling used for patés and fried meat: pickled redbeet (betterave/biet).

You take 1 part of redbeets, 1/4 -1/5 part of sugar, 1/2 part of vinegar, spices (see below) and 1 pair of plastic gloves. You boil the beets till tender – 1/2  to 1 hour in salted water, freshen them under running cold water and rub or peel of the skin. Using the plastic gloves for this is recommendable as the colouring effect from handling unpeeled redbeets is impressive. Having peeled and sliced the redbeets you boil the vinegar and sugar with the spices till the sugar has dissolved. You are free to use spices you like such as: staranise, laurier, pepper. cardamom, gloves, even cinnamon. You add the beet slices, gives it a quick boil and puts the beets and the liquid on sterilised glasses. You can enjoy them after 1-2 days and they will keep for weeks if kept dry, cool and dark.

These pickles are traditionally used for the Danish liver paté, for fried meat balls or for fried chopped beef, or the very traditional Skipperlabskovs, which is like a stew of meet and potatoes. In some ways similar to the Belgian stoemp, which I am sure could be enjoyed with some pickled beets. But they are also good with poached cod (or bacalao) and with smoked eel or smoked salmon.

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