Two Sundays ago, I bought some Persian cucumbers for a dinner that did not happen. I did not want them to spoil. There were too many of them just to eat on my own, so I decided to make pickles with them.
Over the last year, I have been experimenting with different kinds of pickles. Different spices, different vinegars, and a processing methods. For this batch, I decided just to wing it and see what I came up with. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down exactly what I did. This is an attempt to recreate, from a week old memory, how I made these pickles.
Everybody in the family loves these pickles and they want more. I will be able to hold off the horde by refreshing the original brine, but I can only get away with that once. I really do need to reconstruct this recipe, because these are the best pickles I have ever made.
My memory is that, even though I had Persian cucumbers, I started with the Japanese mixture of rice vinegar, mirin, sugar, and dashi. I then decided to change tack. I went for the Western pickling agents of black pepper, celery seeds, and garlic.
I quartered and salted the cucumbers, but I found that they only half filled my pickling jar. I did not want to run out to the store and I was certainly not going to pickle half a jar of vegetables. I looked in my vegetables bin to see what I had on hand. I found a large sweet onion and a red bell pepper. Not taking the time to salt these, I simply chopped up the onion and pepper and filled the jar.
Note: I only used one red pepper in the original batch, because that is what I had on hand. I plan on increasing this ingredient, so that someone besides Jan gets to discover what they taste like. She really, really liked the pickled red peppers.
I brought my pickling mix to a boil and poured it into the jar. Using a hot mix like this will soften the pickles more than if you use a cold pickling mix. I decided that I wanted these to be even softer than I could get with just the heat of hot pickling mixture.
I was in an ethnic store a few months ago and I fell into a discussion with a Persian man about pickling. He informed me that in Persian pickling they cook the jarred pickles for ten minutes in a hot water bath. I decided that this was just the technique that I was looking for.
Japanese brine, European flavors, and Persian techniques, these are truly international pickles. Sometimes, I am all about being true to the original ethnic cuisine. Other times, my inner Californian comes out and I create something truly unique. This was a good dish to add to my birthday/Chinese New Year’s feast.
Karl’s California International Pickles
6 Persian cucumbers
1 sweet onion
2 red bell peppers
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup mirin
2 Tbs. white sugar
1 Tbs. Kosher salt
1 tsp. dashi powder
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. celery seeds
2 cloves garlic, lightly cracked
1. Quarter the cucumbers and put them in a bowl.
2. Seed the red bell peppers and cut them into strips. Add them to the bowl.
3. Sprinkle the vegetables with the salt and toss to coat.
4. Let the vegetables sweat for at least half an hour, tossing occasionally to distribute the salt.
Tip: I prefer to let the vegetables sit for one to two hours.
5. Rinse the salt off of the vegetables.
6. Cut the onion into six pieces, cutting pole to pole.
Tip: Try to keep the onion wedges intact while packing them into the jar.
7. Pack the vegetables into the pickling jar, interleaving the cucumbers, peppers, and and onions.
Tip: You want the various vegetables evenly distributed throughout the jar.
8. Put the rest of the ingredients in a small pot and bring it to a boil.
9. Pour the pickling mixture over the vegetables.
Tip: Add boiling water to fill the jar if the vegetables are not completely covered.
10. Loosely put the lid on the jar and set the jar in a large pot filled with water.
Tip: You do not want the jar to be completely submerged, but, ideally, you want the water level to come up the top of the vegetables in the jar.
11. Once the water bath reaches the boiling point, boil the vegetables for tem minutes.
12. Remove the pickling jar from the bath and tighten the lid completely.
13. Cool the pickling jar to room temperature on the counter.
14. Refrigerate the pickles for at least one week.
Tip: You can safely leave the sealed jar for months, they will only get better.
15. Open and enjoy, but use the opened pickles within three weeks.