Caught in a Pickle!
I finally got back to CrossFit after being sick for almost over a week! It felt great to be back and I can’t wait to get back on track with my workout routine. On the food front I’ve been trying to avoid sugar (except in the form of fruit) and plan to keep it that way for as long as possible. I haven’t been baking a whole lot, even though I like to bake, it can wait for a few weeks…maybe. I figured that small amounts of agave in coffee eventually adds up and black coffee happens to be my new thing, more about this in a separate coffee post.
Although this winter has been moderate overall, we got a crazy storm with almost 30 inches of snow and another brutally cold weekend. Winter to me is all about feeling cozy, eating heart warming and occasionally spicy food, and some pickle to go with piping hot Indian food.
So my definition of pickles growing up in India were very sharp tasting raw mango chunks dunked in hand ground spices, mustard powder and oil stored in huge glass jars. Pickling was a community activity in the summers which is officially the mango season. Traditional pickling involved days of drying mango pieces on the roof under the scorching summer sun and mixing in mustard oil and hand ground spices using bare hands. Sun drying, salt and oil are still used as natural preservatives versus vinegar. Culturally I don’t believe Indian society can’t survive without pickles, it’s not just about preserving food for the winter months but more about getting together as a community and handing down heirloom of recipes from generations.
What I do like about pickles in India is the diversity (like all other food in India), anything from mango, lemon, carrots, ginger, Indian gooseberry, onion, sorrel leaves, garlic to shrimps are pickled. The spices vary depending on what part of the country you are in. Pickle can add the much needed excitement to any mundane meal. Over a period of time I have explored pickles from different parts of the world and noticed how preservation techniques lend to the overall flavor-
Traditionally made using cabbage and salt, because its fermented, it is packed with digestive enzymes, naturally occurring bacteria and lactic acid.
Kimchi (South Korea)
Napa cabbage kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, very similar to the process of making sauerkraut. Its made using salty brine, red pepper, sugar and garlic. The brine kills the harmful bacteria and then convert sugars to lactic acid which is what preserves the cabbage.
Gari is pickled ginger typically served with sushi and sashimi. It is preserved using sugar, salt and Japanese rice vinegar and serves as a palate cleanser in between eating different kinds of raw fish.
Torshi (Middle East)
Vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, eggplant, onions, beets, etc. are pickles using vinegar, salt, herbs and spices. The flavor blend in and get stronger with fermentation.
Dill Cucumber (USA)
Cucumbers are fermented in brine, traditionally this pickle is made from cucumbers that are freshly harvested. The fermentation process depends on the naturally occurring bacteria that cover the skin of the cucumber. Dill adds a unique flavor to the sour cucumber.
This recipe is derived from the pickle I looked forward to most during winter months in India. Of course the recipe is modified by substituting certain ingredients. I used carrots, shallots, turnip, beets, cauliflower, hot green peppers, ginger and garlic.
I cut the vegetables into small bite size pieces, they looked so nice and colorful! I also like how beets dominate and take over any recipe they are used in, it lends a beautiful pink color to this pickle.
Indian pickles are incomplete without spices, I used turmeric, ground red chilies, ground mustard, onion seeds, black peppercorns and cloves.
The spices are mixed with the vegetables and play some role in preserving this along with salt of course. However, I also used a liquid mixture of coconut sugar and water along with some oil and vinegar.
The pickle is best stored in a glass jar and kept at room temperature for a few days for fermentation to occur and the flavors to blend in. The vegetables are crunchy for the first few days but get a little softer after sitting in the liquid for a few days, however they are never mushy. The liquid is bursting with flavor from the vegetable and spices.
- 6-8 Shallots
- 1 Beet
- 1 Cup cauliflower florets
- 1 Turnip
- 2-4 Green chilies
- 1 Carrot
- 1 Tbsp Whole black peppercorns
- 6-8 Cloves
- 1 Tbsp Ground fenugreek
- 2 Tbsp Ground mustard
- 1 Tbsp Onion seeds
- 1 Tbsp Red chili powder
- 1/4 Tbsp Turmeric powder
- 1 Tsp Salt (add more if needed)
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- 2 Tbsp Vinegar
- 1/2 Cup Coconut sugar
- 1 1/2 Cup Filtered water
- Cut all vegetables into bite size pieces
- Add all spices to the vegetables along with the oil and mix
- Melt the coconut sugar with water in a pot on medium flame, let the water come to a boil.
- Let the water cool and then add it to the vegetables
- Add the vinegar and mix well
- Store in an airtight glass container
- Let it sit at room temperature for 3-4 days
- Can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks