Pickling, also known as brining or corning, is a 4000 year old technique for preserving food via fermentation in a brine solution, or storage in an acid solution, typically vinegar.
The word pickle derives from the Dutch word pekel, meaning brine. Though, in the US, the word pickle almost always refers to a pickled cucumber, there are plenty of pickling possibilities if we go beyond the gherkin.
Of course, there are pickled peppers. But cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, turnips, olives, lemons, watermelon rind, and more are primed for the pickling.
Zod Arifai, chef and owner two of NJ Monthly's Top 25 Restaurants, Blu in Montclair and Daryl in New Brunswick, in addition to the casual eatery Next Door, pickles young grapes while they're still green. The grapes, in typical Arifai fashion, are as interesting to look at - tender, delicate, verdant pearls - as they are to eat. If you attempt to pickle grapes, it's advisable to make sure they are seedless.
In preparation for a recent camping trip, I pickled a pint of red onions to take along as a condiment with kick. They were a great addition to grilled burgers and brats, and also made for a tangy snack without any meat or bun!
Pickled Red Onions
1 lb red onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
2 star anise
Dash red pepper flakes
1. Blanch red onions in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain in colander.
2. While the water is heating in step 1, in a separate saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add blanched, drained onions to the vinegar mixture. Simmer for 1 minute.
4. Transfer to a glass jar. Allow to stand until cooled. Will keep several weeks refrigerated.
1 pound carrots, cut into 3 1/2- by 1/3-inch sticks
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons dill seeds
1. Blanch carrots in a 4-quart nonreactive saucepan of boiling salted water 1 minute, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Transfer carrots to a heatproof bowl.
2. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Pour pickling liquid over carrots and cool, uncovered. Chill carrots, covered, at least 1 day for flavors to develop.