Do you go to La Boulange so you can sneakily pick at their pickle bar? I do. And I also drink pickle juice straight from the jar and even white vinegar from the bottle. (Don’t judge, I know I am not alone here.)

Todd Parsons Photography

Skip the line at La Boulange and make your own! Besides, pickles don’t have to be boring. They can be wild in color. Spicy. Sweet. Fermented. Bursting with vinegar, juicy goodness, and probiotic power. And they make a beautiful appetizer. And they go well with aperitifs. Suzie Trexler, co-farm manager at Potrero Nuevo Farm  with her husband Jay, and master canner and pickler has some recipes to share. Or rather, I have some of her recipes to share.

For our farm to table dinner with Cypress Brewing Company we wanted to have an array of little bites that would pair well with Brian and Lea’s locally brewed beer. Using produce only grown at Potrero Nuevo Farm Suzie made an assortment of fresh and fermented pickles – kraut, and kimchi too.

Guests were greeted with an ice cold pint of beer and a selection of colorful goodies to nibble on.

Fresh pickles will keep in the fridge up to two weeks and can be made by pouring boiling pickling liquid (vinegar, water, salt, and spices) over cleaned and trimmed produce. Allow the veg to cool in the pickling liquid to room temperature and then refrigerating in an air tight container.

Sour pickles, krauts, and kimchis are fermented providing probiotics and many health benefits. Fermented foods especially cabbage ones like sauerkraut and kimchi can boost the immune system, fight various types of cancer, and aid in weight loss by regenerating good bacteria in the intestines.

For Suzie’s fermented items she uses German ceramic crocks. She places weights over the vegetables and enough brine so air and bad pathogens cannot spoil the produce and the lacto-fermentation process can take place.

The sour taste of kimchi, sauerkraut, and what are aptly named ‘sour’ pickles does not come from vinegar – it comes from beneficial bacteria metabolizing the vegetable’s natural sugars and producing lactic acid as a byproduct. Spices, sea salt, and water are all that Suzie adds in the pickling solution for her fermented concoctions. (more on this in a future post – I’m fascinated by fermentating and it deserves its own column).

The pickle bar: Todd Parsons Photography

As healthy as fermented pickles are, not all of us have the time to make them – or to wait for them to burp and bubble and do their thing – sometimes fresh pickles make a nice quick alternative to a crudité plate or as an accompaniment to a hearty terrine paysanne or chacuterie plate. I also like to add them to salads, especially ones that have fruit because I think the sweet and sour surprise is tasty.

With a basic brine recipe Suzie experiments with different spices and traditional additions for taste and color. Pictured below is her spicy pickled cauliflower florets with tumeric, coriander, cumin, garlic, and chili peppers.

Here’s a basic pickling liquid for fresh pickles (not preserved in any way). Taste and adjust to your liking. And remember if you like the flavor of the pickling liquid you will like the taste of your pickles.

A nice tangy app always get the salivary glands and the conversation started. Why not experiment and add some color to this Thanksgiving’s appetizer array? And then guests can tell people: ”Boy, did I get pickled last night….”

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Fresh Pickle Basic Brine

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4's cup water
  • 1-2 tablespoons sea salt (should taste salty like the sea, adjust with vinegar to right salinity)
  • 1/3 cup organic sugar (optional, depends if you would like the pickle brine salty-sweet.)
  • 2 pounds of vegetables cleaned and trimmed
  • Vegetable choices could be: baby tokyo turnips, cauliflower florets, onions, carrots slices or baby carrots, fresh beans, jalapenos, cucumber slices, zucchini spears, etc...

Bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Add sugar if desired to create a tart-sweet pickle. Add desired spices (see below for basic options). Pack raw vegetables into glass jars or a plastic container and pour liquid over. Allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.

It is important to either pack the vegetables into a mason jar tight so they will not rise to the top too easily or to submerge them in a plastic container with a weight or plate on top.

Fresh pickles should keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

For curried pickles add a half teaspoon each of cumin seed, coriander seed, and tumeric powder (for yellow color). If possible add a few curry leaves (you can also add curry powder which often is a combination of the spices listed above), and a dried red chile.

For a sweeter spice curried pickle make sure to add all the ingredients above plus the sugar, a few slices of young ginger and 2 to 3 cardamon pods. 1 star anise seed is enough to depart it's powerful licorice flavor.

For pink pickles replace the 1 cup of water with 1 cup of beet juice which can be the canning liquid taken from canned beets or from simmering beets in water and then straining the liquid.

The addition of grape or cherry leaves is said to keep the pickles crunchy. I have no proof that this works, but it looks pretty in the jar. It is probably more useful when canning pickles in a water bath where they are cooked.

Spices to consider and experiment with: cumin, coriander, mustard seed, celery seed, star anise, dill flowers, horseradish leaves, celery leaves, garlic.

Note: This recipe is not meant for canned pickles, this is for fresh pickles....