From the Farmers’ Market: Pickled Magic

From the Farmer’s Market is a series on Barista Kids in its third year written by Alison Bermack the founder of Cooking With Friends.

“Ickle me, pickle me, tickle me too.” ~Shel Silverstein

It’s pickle time! Crisp. Crunchy. Refreshing.

This weekend at the farmers’ market, put on your creative hats and look for veggies that can be magically transformed into pickles. Cucumbers may be your favorite, but they aren’t the only veggie that can (and should) be pickled. And as you transform your cucumbers into dills, cabbage into Kimchi or string beans into dilly beans, you’ll also be part of science and history. If your kids’ brains are turning to summer mush (like my kids), this makes an appealing activity to do with the kids.

Sure, you can get your pickles from the Pickle Guy, but it’s really simple and a blast to make them yourselves. And if you make them in small quantities, you don’t need to bother jarring them and can store them in the refrigerator for several days.

Let’s talk science. When you pickle food, you need acid (that’s where the vinegar comes in) and something to help with fermentation (hello salt!). The combination of a vinegar and salt solution prevents spoilage by not allowing microbes to attack the food.

As your little scientists strike a balance between vinegar, salt and water, bear in mind that the preservation technique known as pickling dates as far back as 2400 BC with the Mesopotamians and then continues through history with The Egyptians, Romans and even Aristotle. We even have Christopher Columbus to thank for the introduction of pickles in America! Reportedly, he rationed pickles to his crew in order to avoid scurvy on his ship! A history lesson too!

Better hurry! Kirby cucumbers, dill, radishes, cilantro and garlic have never looked better. Perfect pickling time.

Quick Pickled Radishes

  • 2 cups sliced radishes
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, sliced and peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/8 cup salt
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • Handful of cilantro

Place cleaned and sliced radishes in a heat proof bowl. In a medium sauce pan, bring water, vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic, ginger, coriander and mustard seed to a boil. Pour liquid over the radishes, place a handful of ice cubes in the bowl, add the cilantro and cover and chill. You should start seeing a pickling effect in 2 hours. You’ll also notice the water turning red from the radishes.

Farmers’ Market Dills

These zesty refrigerator spears will taste like pickles in less than four hours and get continuously stronger over the next twenty-four hours. If you seal them in a glass jar or Pyrex, they will keep in your refrigerator for about two weeks. But, they are so tasty that they’ll probably get gobbled up sooner.

  • 10 Kirby Cucumbers (a smaller cucumber variety)
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 2 medium sized onions, washed, peeled and chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons yellow mustard seed
  • ¾ cup fresh dill, washed and stems removed
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup water

Wash cucumbers well and cut about 1/4 inch off each end. Cut each of the cucumbers into 6 to 8 spears. Place in a large glass bowl or Pyrex dish.

In a non-stick pot, bring water, vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic and onions to a boil. Turn heat down and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Add mustard seeds. Turn heat off and add a handful of ice cubes to cool the liquid. Once cooled, add the dill.

Pour the liquid over the cucumbers and add cold water to cover. Cover the pickles with something heavy (like a plate) that pushes the pickles into the liquid, and refrigerate. Let the pickles sit in the liquid for about 24 hours, remove garlic cloves, and then transfer to a container or mason jars with tight fitting lids.

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