If you read our last recipe, you'll know that we're struggling to say goodbye to summer in the Life & Style kitchen. Well, the theme continues. I bought a surplus of carrots, radishes, and chilies at the farmer's market last weekend and, in the spirit of preparing for winter, thought I'd pickle some of them.
Pickles are great. They're an effective way of extending the life of vegetables that might otherwise have gone to waste, they're easy to make, and they brighten up any dish you add them to. Seriously. Do chua, the Vietnamese pickled carrot and radish combination which features in this recipe, is one of my favourite ingredients in a banh mi. Banh mi is a Vietnamese street food baguette packed with creamy paté, chicken or pork belly, coriander, and these sweet, zingy pickled matchsticks of carrot and daikon radish.
Whether you're making these from scratch for a particular dish in mind or if you're just trying to save some veggies from going to waste, this recipe is for you. I've included some kitchen storage tips and tricks to get the most out of your pickling adventures. Let's get into a pickle.
What you'll need from the shops:
Vegetables of your choice (I chose carrots, radishes, and green chilis, but you can pickle pretty much anything your heart desires)
White vinegar or rice vinegar (rice vinegar is great for do chua or any other Asian-inspired pickle)
Two suitably-sized jars
How to pickle vegetables
Step One: Prep your kak
Pickling extends the life of your fresh produce, but it is best to pickle as close to the time you bought the vegetables as possible. The fresher the veg, the crunchier the pickle. That being said, there are ways of storing veg so that they remain as fresh as possible for any kitchen use (including pickling).
The colder your fridge is, the longer your veggies will stay fresh and crispy. However, you can store carrots in a jar of water in the fridge to keep them super fresh and crispy for days. I've found that loose carrots keep for much longer this way.
Anyway, once you've got your fresh veg ready, it's time to chop it into bits.
I pickled the chilis whole (stems and all), but I sliced my carrots and radishes into matchstick pieces. This makes them easier to stuff into banh mi baguettes, pitas, and salads. It also just creates a very satisfying little crunch. It's well worth the effort of slicing your veg (and possibly your fingers) into little sticks.
To do this, I'll chop the irregularly shaped veg lengthways into thirds or so - anything that would make cutting a rectangle much easier.
The sharper your knife is, the safer this endeavor will be. Don't beat yourself up if your matchsticks are more like bludgeons. It's a pickle, for heaven's sake. This is the direction in which you might hope your matchsticks go after an hour of painstaking slicing:
Step Two: Prepare your pickling brine
Here's some unhelpful advice: your pickling brine recipe is totally up to you. If there was ever an exercise in the kitchen that required your personal tastes (and tasting ability), it's pickling. Sure, I'll give you a ratio to start out with, but the burden is on you to taste and adjust according to your quantities and your personal pickle tastes.
Here's a basic pickling ratio: 1:1 water and vinegar, 1:1 sugar and salt.
You want your pickles to pickle faster or taste more pungent? More vinegar. You want a saltier pickle? More salt. You want a sweeter, tangier pickle? More sugar. You can also get fancy with it and include all sorts of exciting additions like fresh dill, garlic, mustard seeds, and black peppercorns. Whatever I've got in my pantry tends to end up in the pickle.
These are the pickle brine ratios I used for my pickles:
For the do chua: 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 2/3 cup of water, 3 tbsp garlic salt, 2 tbsp white sugar
For the chilies: 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup of water, 3 tbsp salt, 3 tbsp white sugar
If the ratios look unhinged, it's because they are. There is no preparing for pickle brine. You need to have a look at how much volume you need to fill and please, for the love of cooking, taste your brine to see if it's something you would enjoy eating.
Anyway, plop everything into a pan and heat gently until everything has dissolved and you're happy with how it tastes. Then, put your prepped veggies in their freshly-cleaned jars (hot water and soap will do just fine) and pour the pickling brine over them.
Step Three: Let them pickle
Now, pop your jars in the fridge and let them do their thing. They're normally ready to eat in about five hours or so, but I would wait until they've rested overnight. They should keep for a few weeks in the fridge.
These are my pickles the morning after.
Enjoy them in platters, salads, sandwiches, and pitas. There is scarcely an occasion that would not benefit from a pickle. I'll die on that hill.