Wednesday, April 10, 2013

cucumber and carrot pickle

Total departure from sweet to savory, but I was provoked when my daughter (who is a good eater, but would not readily be described as a vegetable fiend) asked me to make "that coleslaw I like with carrots and cucumbers." She's talking about this:


Homemade carrot and cucumber pickles, inspired by Matthew and Molly's Spilled Milk Podcast on Banh Mi. In that episode, they made their own banh mi sandwiches, complete with awesome (and insanely cheap) baguettes, meat, veggies, seasoning like nuoc cham (basic Vietnamese dipping sauce) and jalapenos, and these pickles. For me, the star of the episode, and of many subsequent Asian-themed dinners in our house, has been these pickles. When you marinate and grill thinly-sliced bulgogi, and serve it with rice, these pickles go perfectly. When you make BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, the pickles go right on top of the pork, under the top bun. They are fresh, crunchy, vinegary, and just a little sweet. Since you're making them yourself, you get to control the flavors from top to bottom. I'll bet you could even spice them up with some jalapeno or red pepper flakes or chili oil.

They take 10 minutes to make, they last a month, and they're great for munching. So. Good.

Spilled Milk borrowed the recipe from Andrea at Viet World Kitchen. I never have daikon on hand, and I'm not as familiar with it, but I almost always have cukes. The little, skinny Persian cucumbers work well here, or English hothouse cucumbers; I prefer either of those, with their small seeds and thin skin, to conventional cucumbers. 

Cucumber and Carrot Pickle (adapted slightly)
Makes about 1 quart jar

3 small or medium carrots, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
3 Persian cucumbers, seeded and cut into thick matchsticks
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup sugar (divided)
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 quart jar

Place the carrots and cucumbers in a bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and 2 teaspoons sugar. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling the water from them. They will soften, and liquid will form at the bottom of the bowl. Knead until the carrots are fairly bendy. The vegetables will lose about 1/4 of their volume. Drain in a colander, rinse with cold running water, and press gently to expel extra water. Return the vegetables to the bowl to hold.

In the jar, combine 1/2 cup sugar, vinegar, and water. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the vegetables to the jar. It should be most of the way full and the brine should cover the vegetables. Marinate for at least 1 hour before eating. Eat the same day or keep, refrigerated, for up to a month. The vegetables will get tired after that. 

Variations:
- add pickled shallots
- use daikon instead of cucumber
- alter the ratio of sugar to vinegar to make a sweeter brine

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