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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mama Masha's Kitchen - variations on the theme of pickling

We have talked about canning and pickling in the past. But just in case people have forgotten what we talked about, I'd like to remind you to approach pickling seriously. It is great fun and - done right - the results are very rewarding. It's always awesome to pope a jar of home-made pickles in the middle of winter and enjoy that summertime crunch or offer your guests a fantastic veggie spread and tell them you've done your own pickling. But in order to get good results, one must have a solid process, with great discipline, organization, coordination, and thoroughness for each step.

I am not going to talk about jar sterilization and pressurization - there are tons of instructions for that on the internet, and printed on a leaflet sold with just about any canning product, including jar caps. Rather, I would like to suggest a few variations on the basic pickling solution to expand your range of flavors.

The basic pickling brine recipe goes as follows:

- 3 cups of water

- 2 cups of vinegar

- 1/4 cup of pickling salt (regular salt is acceptable, but pickling salt gives you a clearer, more transparent brine)

- A pinch of sugar (I use brown sugar)

Now, let us build up on the basic...

For savory, slightly spicy pickles, start with the basic brine and add the following to each jar:

- 2 black pepper corns

- 1 clove of garlic

- 1 bay leaf

- 1 sprig of fresh parsley

- 1 sprig of fresh dill

Note: If you don't have fresh herbs, make it a pinch of dried parsley and a pinch of dried dill. Do consider growing them - they are not that hard to maintain, and they smell great!

For sweet and tangy pickles:

- Instead of a pinch of sugar in the basic brine recipe, add 1 cup of sugar per each cup of vinegar. So in our basic recipe above, we would have 3 cups of water, 2 cups of vinegar, 1/4 cup of salt, and 2 cups of sugar.

- Also add to the brine, 1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric and 1/2 teaspoon of one of these (not all of them - just whichever one you prefer): cayenne pepper, mustard seed, dried mustard, ground black pepper, chili pepper.

- Add 1 slice of a medium-size sweet onion to the jar.

- 2 black pepper corns

- 1 sprig of fresh parsley (or a pinch of dried)

- 1 sprig of fresh dill (or a pinch of dried)

Other things to add to the jar for slight variations of flavor and texture:

- Cherry leaves (for firmness and slightly sweeter flavor)

- Rosemary (fragrant and savory)

- Mint (fragrant and sweet)

- Lemon balm leaves (sweet and tangy)

- Sage and thyme (very heady, fragrant, savory scent and flavor)

- Lemon juice (a pop of tartness)

The good news is that all these additives are not only great for flavor enhancement but also good for you. Happy pickling!

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