Pickles are having a moment, moving from relish to main event on all the coolest menus. Plus, they’re easy to make and look great on Instagram. Here’s how to get in on the trend at home
If the mere mention of pickling brings back memories of soggy childhood picnics munching sour pickled onions and stale pork pies, it’s time to readjust your thinking. With bars selling shots of pickle juice, kimchi now a menu staple, and pioneering chefs such as Craft London’s Stevie Parle pickling all types of seasonal produce from mushrooms to sloes, preserving looks set to become one of the biggest foodie trends of 2016.
Rather than just a relish, pickled produce is increasingly the star ingredient in salads, curries and even desserts. “The process can transform a distinctly ordinary vegetable into something fantastic and full of flavour,” says Parle. “In fact, pickled produce provides at least 30% of the flavour on our menu.”
And the trend is now making its way into our homes – sales of Kilner jars, pans and preserving spoons at Lakeland have gone up by 400% in the past year. “Pickling is having a renaissance. It’s a sensible way to give food longevity, plus vinegar has probiotic qualities, so it fits with the trend for better eating,” says long-time preserver Kylee Newton, author of The Modern Preserver (£9.99, Square Peg, itunes.apple.com). “It’s easy, as you don’t need any specialised equipment, plus you can have fun with different spices and vinegars.” Here, she picks four of her favourite things to pickle and shares the basic brine recipe to get you started.
Step 1: Wash glass jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse with hot water and place in a low-temperature oven (100°C-120°C) for 20 minutes to sterilise. Allow to cool.
Step 2: To fill a 1 litre jar, make a flavoured brine using around 500ml vinegar, along with complementary herbs and spices. Which vinegar you use is down to preference – white wine vinegar is good if you want the flavours of the spices to stand out, while stronger vinegars such as malt are good if you want more of a tang.
Step 3: Place the vinegar, herbs and spices in a pan, add white sugar and salt (the amounts will vary depending on the desired flavour). Bring to a simmer to allow the spices to infuse and sugar to dissolve, then cool.
Step 4: Layer chopped or whole fresh fruit or vegetables in the sterilised jars and fill with brine (if using whole, prick the produce so the brine can permeate through the skin). Seal, label and date your jars, then store in a cool, dark place and wait four weeks for the flavours to mature and penetrate.
Topping up your pickle with gin is a fun way to add an extra kick of flavour to cucumber. It would also drink up other strong flavours, such as chilli, mint and lime. Serve with fried chicken or as a martini garnish.
Pickled blueberries are great with goat’s cheese or smoked mackerel on toast. Add spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and star anise for warmth, while cider vinegar brings a welcome tang.
“When pickling fruit, use more sugar, no salt and wine, balsamic or sherry vinegars,” says Newton. Try pickling lemons with rice wine vinegar and rosemary – it works equally well in a sweet lemon tart or a cous cous salad.
Mooli, or daikon, is a long, white radish commonly used in Japanese cuisine. Fresh and peppery, this pickle looks great and adds a crunch to katsu curry, or can be used in place of kimchi.