I tend to think of myself as a fairly laid-back, type “B” (for Bojon?) type of person. Slow-rising sourdoughs, laborious laminated doughs, homemade sweetened condensed milk; I don’t mind the wait. But in the case of pickles, it turns out, I am downright impatient.
My über-talented sister-in-law, Sheila Metcalf Tobin, is also a pickling and lacto-fermentation goddess. She knows her way around a giant jar of brined veggies, and unfailingly brings out something tangy with which to titillate one’s tastebuds. Last weekend, it was crisp slices of rutabaga, carrot and watermelon radish soaked in a simple brine. They were eye-openingly good. She kindly gave me the recipe (which was fortunate, because no one likes to call the cops on a deranged sister-in-law for pickle-induced breaking-and-entering).
The original recipe comes from The Joy of Pickling, and uses turnips colored pink with the help of a red beet. Sheila went rogue and used the aforementioned vegetables, which I liked even better than the original, as the carrots and watermelon radish retain more crunch than the turnips. Sadly, the radishes lose some of their brilliant hue once pickled, but their outstanding flavor more than makes up for that fact.
I found some lovely, slender carrots at our co-op, and some small watermelon radishes, which are named for their magenta-hued insides. The vegetables get sliced, packed into jars, and covered in an easy brine made from equal parts water and white wine vinegar, and a whole lot of salt. A few cloves of garlic and a frond or two of fennel flavor the pickles, which sit at room temperature for 10 days, making them semi-lacto-fermented, according to Sheila.
Or at least, they’re supposed to sit for 10 days. By the second day of brining, we had already munched and crunched our way through nearly half of the pickles. I immediately made another batch, and then forced myself to let it rest for the requisite period of time.
These pickles are super simple to make, and oh so satisfying – salty, crunchy, and toe-curlingly sour. Letting them sit for 10 days helps to blend and mellow the flavors, and it softens the dense watermelon radish so that they’re less jaw-achingly chewy. But if you’re impatient, like ahem – some people, they are almost as tasty just 24 hours after soaking in their brine.
Now that I have the pickle situation under control, I pray for the serenity to wait another 5 days for my next fermentation project: this strawberry rhubarb balsamic shrub from Reclaiming Provincial. I can do it.
In a Pickle:
Carousing with Carrots:
Carrot and Watermelon Radish Pickle
We find the salt/vinegar content just right for our pickle-loving selves, but both are on the high sides. Since I’m not knowledgeable about lacto-fermenting safety, I recommend sticking with these proportions, but do be warned. These pickles are best after a 10-day rest at room temperature, but they’ll taste pickley after just 24 hours. I think a sliced jalapeño or two could be good in these, for a spicy, escabeche-like pickle.
Makes 2 quarts
2 cups white wine vinegar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons salt (sea, kosher or pickling salt)
1 pound small carrots
1 pound watermelon radishes
a few fennel fronds, dill sprigs, or leafy celery stalks
4 garlic cloves
Combine the vinegar, water and salt in a non-reactive bowl or measuring pitcher, and give it a stir now and then to dissolve the salt.
Scrub the carrots, trim off their tops, and slice them lengthwise into quarters. Peel and trim the radishes, slice them in half lengthwise, then cut them crosswise into 1/4″-thick half moons. Pack the vegetables, fennel fronds and garlic cloves into a sterilized (re: washed with soap and hot water and allowed to air dry) 2-quart mason jar (or two 1-quart jars).
Pour the brine over the vegetables, and cover with the lid. Let the pickle sit at room temperature for 10 days, then store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.