When a bumper crop of tomatoes, beets and cucumbers arrives at the back door, much of the bounty finds its way onto the menu. What to do with the extra? Many resourceful chefs, including Michael McDonald, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and Danielle Custer, turn to pickling.
This article first appeared in the 1 September 2009 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. Visit the R&I website to find out more about the magazine or to search its recipe database.
Batches of pickles do more than extend the life of vegetables and fruit. They add acidity to salads, delicate fish entrées, rich meat dishes and cheese plates while giving chefs the flexibility to use seasonal produce long after harvest time has passed.
While late-summer produce still beckons, consider pickling or preserving a batch of grapes, beets or any crunchy vegetable for safekeeping. Here, ideas from kitchens across the country.
Director Danielle Custer, Taste at the Seattle Art Museum
Yield: 4 cups
- Cinnamon sticks 4
- Sugar 1½ cups
- White-wine vinegar 1 cup
- Onion, minced 1 Tbsp.
- Seedless grapes, stemmed 4 cups
In a small saucepan, bring cinnamon, sugar, vinegar and onion to a boil. Stir well, lower to a simmer, cook 5 minutes.
Divide the grapes among 4 very clean canning jars. Place 1 cinnamon stick in each jar. Pour syrup over the grapes. Cover with a lid and process for canning. Alternatively, store refrigerated for as long as 3 weeks.
*At Taste, pickled grapes are served in salads or alongside cheese.
Chef-partner Josh Eden, Shorty's .32, New York City
Yield: 2 quarts
- Cucumbers 2
- Mustard seeds 2 Tbsp.
- Black peppercorns 2 Tbsp.
- Coriander seeds 1 Tbsp.
- Bay leaf 1
- Tarragon 4 sprigs
- Rice-wine vinegar 1 qt.
- Sugar ¾ cup
Slice cucumbers ¼-inch thick widthwise. Place in a large, clean jar.
Make a sachet with the mustard seeds, peppercorns, coriander, bay leaf and tarragon.
In a small pot, boil together vinegar, sugar and sachet. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour brine and sachet over the cucumbers.
Cool; remove sachet.
Refrigerate 1 to 3 hours before serving. Pickles keep, refrigerated, for about 1 month.
\* Chef Eden serves the pickles with burgers.
Chef-partner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colo.
Yield: about 5 cups
- Beets, roasted, peeled, quartered 2 lb.
- Water 1 liter
- White vinegar 7.4 oz.
- Salt 2.7 oz.
- Sugar 2.7 oz.
- Dill 1 sprig
- Small hot pepper 1
- Garlic 1 clove
- Celery seed ½ tsp
Submerge a half-gallon jar and lid in boiling water 3 to 5 minutes to sterilize.
Boil water, vinegar, salt and sugar.
Place beets, dill, pepper, garlic and celery seed in the jar. Pour hot pickling liquid over the top. Cover with a lid; cool. Let sit, refrigerated, for 2 weeks or as long as 6 months.
* These beets garnish cauliflower soup.
THE PERFECT BRINE
Executive Chef Michael McDonald, one sixtyblue, Chicago
Yield: 4 cups
- Any crunchy vegetable 4 dozen pieces
- Garlic 16 cloves
- Thai chiles 12
- Fresh dill 1 bunch
- White vinegar 2 qt.
- Water 4 qt.
- Kosher salt 2 cups
- Dill seed 2 cups
- Juniper berries ¼ cup
Soak vegetables in an ice bath for about 2 hours. Place in a large plastic container with garlic, chiles and fresh dill.
Boil together vinegar, water, salt, dill seed and juniper berries. Pour over the vegetables until vegetables are submerged. Let cool to room temperature; refrigerate. Vegetables keep, refrigerated, for 2 to 3 weeks.
* Minced house-made pickles are mixed with butter for a pickle butter.