Happy International Pickle Week! Celebrate with Some Unusual Pickles
International Pickle Week takes place May 15-25 this year -- and yes, I am noting for the record that that's actually 10 days, but who am I to argue with the Pickle Authorities? The event, scheduled right around the same time of year that the Northern Hemisphere is planting cucumbers for summer growth, celebrates those briny, vinegary vegetables that serve as a savory snack or condiment.
Though the mascot of International Pickle Week is Dilly, who is clearly cucumber out of his brine, I think International Pickle Week should be celebrated with more than just the standard dill pickle. Here are some pickled vegetable and fruit recipes that might just shake up your view of this tasty type of treat.
Andrea Nguyen of Viet World Kitchen explored the role pickled vegetables play in Vietnamese cuisine during last year's International Pickle Week, and provided a recipe for Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Chua), which is often found in the traditional banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich.
Cooks in Asia don't can the way westerners do using sterilized jars and the like. We eat pickles and preserved vegetables so often -- think of Korean kimchi sold in the refrigerated sections of many markets these days and the assortment of Japanese pickles -- that it's more practical to make regular supplies and keep them in the refrigerator, where they last for weeks and sometimes months. This Vietnamese daikon and carrot pickle is sold in bulk at Vietnamese-American markets (check the produce section) and in Vietnam, sold by wet market vendors in small plastic bags. I prefer to make my own and on a regular basis I replenish my ever dwindling supply of do chua.
Vegetables aren't the only candidates for pickling. Deb of The Smitten Kitchen made Pickled Grapes with Cinnamon and Black Pepper, which she described as follows:
But I had yet to make the leap to pickled fruit, at least somewhat due to my vision of pickles including garlic, dill and an abundance of salt. But these pickled grapes are a whole other animal, a dessert pickle if you will,brined with a more delicate white wine vinegar, a good amount of sugar, a cinnamon stick and just enough mustard seed and black peppercorns to keep it on this side of a fruit compote. After a couple days, the grapes firm up and get a little punch to them, while remaining something I could imagine serving with toothpicks at a cheese course.
Molly of Orangette tells the story of when her partner, Brandon, made pickled baby carrots, which she described as less successful, and some transcendent Pickled Red Onions. "Both recipes were surprisingly easy and completely painless, save for the hour or so that the house was filled with the sharp smell of hot vinegar, and then, oh, then there were the pickles."
Lindy of Toast describes pickled okra as an excellent hot weather snack, perfect for washing down with an ice-cold beer.
It's absurdly simple to quick-pickle radishes, especially using Amy Sherman's (of Cooking With Amy) method. "I almost feel guilty for calling this a recipe," Amy says. "Because even if you absolutely don't cook anything, this is one for you."
What's your favorite kind of pickle? Share your thoughts in the comments below.