Friday, August 11, 2006

Au Courant: Pickled Red Currants

The ban on growing black and red currants is officially over! Actually, it’s been over since 1966, but I suppose being out of sight, out of mind for nearly a century makes for a slow resurgence. At $4 per ½ pint in the NYC Greenmarkets, they’re clearly back in vogue.

Cluster branches of vivid berries on a charcuterie board; toss them with a salad of wild greens, toasted hazelnuts, and Maytag blue cheese; or test their gleam alongside a glistening roasted chicken.

1 pint red currants
1 cup dry white wine (I used Lillet because that's what I had in the fridge)
1 cup Champagne vinegar or white vinegar
3/4 cup muscovado sugar or brown sugar
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
A few allspice berries
1 bay leaf

1. Combine all ingredients except currants and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Allow brine to cool, and pour over cleaned currants into a pint jar. Cover and refrigerate.

Yes, it really is that easy. Refrigerated pickles last for one year.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Peck of Pickled Peppers

There’s nothing modern about these heirloom hot peppers, but I had to post them as an ode to our pickle heritage. These garlicky, tangy pickles will be ready just in time for football season’s Bloody Marys, pulled pork sandwiches, and duck confit nachos.

1 lb. hot peppers--any kind you can find (Bulgarian carrot, Bacio di Satana, Serrano, Tabasco, jalapeno, habanero, etc...)
1 Qt. white vinegar
1 cup water
6 Tbs. kosher salt
8 garlic cloves
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. Tellicherry peppercorns
3 dill heads

1. Wash peppers and cut an inch-long slit in each one.
2. Simmer vinegar, water, salt, and spices for 5 minutes.
3. Pour hot brine over pickles in a sterilized quart jar. Process for 10 minutes in a hot water canner.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pickled Scuppernong Muscadines

When I came across these oversized, green and bronze grapes in Chinatown (for $2.50/lb.) I thought them to be newfangled plum-grape hybrids from China. Not so: Scuppernong muscadines were first discovered by the early colonists along the Georgia and North Carolina coasts. They've been used to make wine and jams since the 17th century, but today, I'm going to make them pickles.
At a recent James Beard House dinner, chef Joseph Truex (of Georgia's Château Élan Winery & Resort) served these with smoked foie gras roulade with vidalia onion relish and cane sugar gastrique--the inspiration for the sugar cane vinegar, which can be purchased from

1 lb. Scuppernong muscadines
1 cup sugar cane vinegar (or Champagne vinegar)
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
8 allspice berries
1 Turkish bay leaf

Simmer all ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Fill a quart jar with washed muscadines and cover with hot pickling liquid. Allow to cool to room temperature, screw on lid, and refrigerate for at least two weeks (and up to one year).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Chef Profile: Peter Hoffman's Preserved Sour Cherries

I love to deglaze a pan of seared pork chops with these addictive pickles. Sometimes I stand in front of the fridge and eat them straight from the jar after work. Sour cherries are in season now in the NYC greenmarkets, so go ahead and double the batch to give as gifts during the holidays.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup white wine
8 allspice berries
2 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 quarts sour cherries (leave the stems on)

1. Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat and boil until slightly thickened--about 5 minutes.
2. Reduce heat and wine, spices, pomegranate molasses, and lemon zest. Simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add cherries to liquid, turn off heat, and allow mixture to cool. Transfer cherries and their syrup to a container. Refrigerate two weeks before using (keeps for up to 6 months).

Recipe courtesy of Saveur magazine, NO. 31.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tutu's Watermelon Rind Pickles

(Recipe adapted from Rowene Erman's family recipe.)

True, these are Southern classics, and this blog is supposed to be about unusual, modern pickles. By updating the recipe and offering atypical serving suggestions, I'm going to let this one slide.

Don't be intimidated by the three-day process; these pickles require minimal effort overall. The spices are merely suggestions--feel free to omit all but the cinnamon and ginger, which really make these pickles sing.

Chef Mark Spangenthal incorporates watermelon rind pickles into a dish of seared foie gras with sauteed peaches. Park Kitchen in Portland, Oregon serves an appetizer of pickled watermelon, roasted beets, and goat cheese, drizzled with good olive oil.

I plan to serve them with crispy, fried pancetta slices and manchego cheese in the fall. Or maybe I'll wrap slices of Oscar's bacon around them and bake like a Spanish tapa until the sugars caramelize the bacon. Spears may even end up in a gin martini or two...

4 lb. watermelon
1 Qt. water
2 Tbs. kosher salt
2 cups cider or Champagne vinegar
2 cups sugar
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled
3 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick (use Ceylon if you can find it)
4 whole cloves
1/2 star anise
1/2 nutmeg pod
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. black or pink peppercorns

Day One
1. Cut watermelon into quarters and scoop out flesh, leaving 1/4 inch of red flesh for color. Cut into 2 inch x 1/2 inch batons and peel off green skin with a paring knife or vegetable peeler.
2. Combine water and salt and submerge watermelon batons with a plate and refrigerate overnight.

Day Two
1. Strain rinds and rinse with cold water.
2. Bring vinegar, sugar, spices, and ginger to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add rinds to syrup and return to a boil. Simmer rinds in syrup for 30 minutes, then allow rinds to steep in syrup, submerged with a plate, in the refrigerator overnight.

Day Three
1. With a slotted spoon, transfer rind to sterilized canning jars (# of jars will depend on how much rind you yield).
2. Bring syrup to a boil, and pour over rinds, leaving 1/2 inch space.
3. Process in a boiler for 10 minutes. Pickles can also be refrigerated for two weeks before eating.