This summer I tried my hand at few new types and techniques for pickling. The sub-head on this post is What I’ve Learned. Spoiler: It might better be called I Tried It So You Don’t Have To. Here goes.
At my neighborhood green grocer in Astoria, United Brothers Fruit Markets, there’s always an enormous variety of produce, and often stuff I’ve never seen before, like raw olives. Or never even knew existed, like fresh green almonds.
But my modus operandi has always been to buy now and figure it out later. So last fall I took home a pound of fresh olives, and this spring I got the same amount of fuzzy green almonds. Herewith are the fruits of my labors.
WATER-CURED GREEN OLIVES
Recipe / Procedure
First, the olives. After consulting Punk Domestics and Hunter-Angler-Garner-Cook I determined that the fresh-water refrigerator cure best fit my lifestyle (generally lazy, casually negligent). I cut the olives down to the pit in three places and dropped them into a large jar and covered with fresh cold water.
I stored them in the fridge, changing out the water every day for a month. Then a taste test. Have you ever tasted an unripe persimmon? If not, lucky you. If you have, that’s what raw olives taste like.
So a couple more weeks went by, with the water regularly refreshed, and after about two months or so the unbearable bitterness was finally eradicated. Some recipes say this process will happen sooner, but for this batch it took this long.
When the bitterness was tamed, I refilled the jar with a finishing brine of 1/4 cup of salt to a liter of water. It did perk up the flavor a bit.
So what did I learn?
- Just become something is edible doesn’t mean it’s delicious.
- Home made is not always better than store-bought.
- If you like the taste of canned black olives, you’ll probably like them.
Would I do it again? Maybe if I had an olive tree laden with fruit. Which I don’t.
PICKLED GREEN ALMONDS
This was another case of what the heck. Buy first, learn later. I used Specialty Produce as my teacher: “Green almonds are distinguishable by their fuzzy, green outer hull. Within the green hull, the flesh offers a soft jelly consistency within a skinless nut. The green almond offers a complex flavor with an overall sweet-tart flavor that is compared to that of green apple, pea pods, and uncured olives [Ha! See above.] Tender Green almonds can be used whole when young. Serve simply as is or sprinkle lightly with sea salt to cut its tart flavor. Slice thin and add to salads or use to make salsa or pickled condiments.”
Notice they don’t use words like delicious or delightful to describe green almonds. Let’s agree to call them unusual.
Still, pickle them I did, resulting in a softer, vinegary take on the fresh.
Try it if you want to. I did it this way, based on this recipe from Taste of Beirut.
PICKLED FRESH GREEN ALMONDS
Recipe / Procedure
1 lb. fresh green almonds, enough to fill 4 pint jars
4 fennel fronds (the feature stalks growing out of the bulb)
4 cayenne peppers (fresh or dried) or 2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 cups white wine vinegar
- Wash the green almonds. Trim the stem end off. Pack into 4 pint jar.
- Add a 3″ or so frond of fresh fennel. Add a couple of hot red peppers, or 1/2 teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes.
- Bring the vinegar and salt to a boil. Pour over the green almonds, filling the jars to withing 1/2″ of the top. Add more boiling vinegar if needed.
- Seal jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
- Let stand for at least a week before eating.
Recipe / Technique
After reading an ode to the glories of whey-pickled hot peppers somewhere I was very excited to make some myself. (I thought I saw it in Lucky Peach, but I can’t find it now.)
How to Make Whey Pickles
4 tablespoons of whey
½-1 cup of filtered water (or as much as needed to top your jar)
1 teaspoon of salt
2 cups worth of small Serrano peppers
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
- Combine the filtered water, whey and salt in a pint jar, and stir well. Taste the solution – it should taste briny.
- Pack the jar with the peppers and garlic, leaving 1″ head space.
- Pour your brine solution over your vegetables, completely submerging them. Top with more water if necessary.
- Cover your jar with a lid.
- Leave it a dark corner of your kitchen counter for two to four days (the duration of their fermentation will depend on the temperature in your home).
- Wait a couple of days before you begin tasting your pickles. Your lacto-fermented vegetables will be done when they taste good to you (I like mine about four days in during winter, but summer times will be substantially shorter).
- At this point, transfer your pickled vegetables in the fridge. They can last for a while in the fridge, but I’m sure you’ll eat them long before they spoil.
- Much on them as they are, serve as part of an appetizer platter with good dip or humus, or use in your favorite burger.
I thought they were kind of meh. Mild, not sharp. Kind of sour. Bland-ish. Still my dad liked them.
They started to spoil after a week in the fridge.
Still, I’ll probably try it again (I have a surfeit of whey from yogurt-making and feel guilty about wasting it.) I’ll use hotter peppers and will let you know how that goes.
- Water cured olives aren’t difficult but for me there’s more enjoyment in the pride of making than actual taste.
- Raw green olives are challenging. But they look magnificent on the branch it large floral arrangements.
- Whey-cured pickles are an interesting project but initial results were lackluster.