One of the biggest trends in food right now is getting back to basics; scratch baking, gardening, home-smoking, and food preservation are all beginning to make a comeback. Making more of the foods we eat from scratch means more healthful eating and reduced food costs. But it also means we have more opportunities to get creative in the kitchen, to try new and interesting techniques and flavor combinations. Pickles are a perfect example; though the word “pickle” immediately evokes images of a briny cucumber, there are many other foods that taste absolutely amazing when they’re pickled.
Pickling is a method of food preservation that used to be far more common. Fruits, vegetables, and meat are pickled by submerging them in brine (a saltwater solution). This allows them to ferment; the growth of good bacteria is encouraged and the growth of bad bacteria is inhibited. The amazing thing about pickling is the way that it enhances the flavor of a particular food; some foods just taste better pickled!
Believe it or not, fruit is a perfect candidate for pickling. Fruit ripens quickly and pickling can be a good way to preserve it if you can’t use it all. Also, the natural sugars in fruit work as a perfect complement to the salty and sour components introduced by the pickling process. Pickled peaches, cherries, and grapes all make wonderful accompaniments to salads and cheese plates.
Meat can also be preserved in brine; corned beef, for example, is pickled beef. The brine replaces much of the meat’s juices, significantly enhancing the flavor. The amount of salt needed to properly brine meat varies (in general, more delicate proteins like fish require less) but you can find a few good brine formulas here.
Still curious? Here are a few other things that taste great brined.
If you’re making a recipe using fresh pumpkin and don’t want to let anything go to waste, this is a great way to use the rind. Pickle the white portion of the pumpkin rind in a combination of vinegar, sugar, and spices.
If you’re tired of cucumbers, swap them for celery; pickled celery is super crunchy and super delicious. They make a great addition to sandwiches and salads.
This article was originally published July17, 2014.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.