I keep going out to the garden, staring at the tiny kale, spinach, arugula, spring onion and snow pea shoots that are peeping out from the black soil, and muttering “grow, grow, grow!”
You see, we got really spoiled this winter. E put up a hoop house, and we had arugula, turnips, collars, carrots, and austrian winter peas all winter long. It was the best place on the farmlet during the short days of December and January, when it was 40 degrees in the yard, but glowing with sun and 70 in the hoop house, full of the scent of green growing things.
Until, that is, we had a massive winds of 60 mph that blew down our somewhat tentative construction of plastic sheeting and scavenged bamboo. Next year, I think we’re going for a sturdier structure of pvc…but I have to say, the fresh veggies in the middle of winter were totally worth the work of putting it up in November, even if it came back down in mid-February.
Anyway. So there’s no fresh veggies here, YET. Tons of things in the ground, the rhubarb and strawberries, herbs and walking onions are taking off in the pie garden, but no salad, no veggies, no CRUNCH. And after a winter of roasted roots (delicious as they are)…I’m craving fresh and crunchy like no one’s business. You know, we’ve been eating a lot of pork. And eggs. It’s TIME for salads.
So I’m making pickles. And as I discussed in French Green Beans, I’m not so good with the cucumber pickles. Plus, cukes aren’t in season yet. But the last of the winter’s daikon radish are still in the store, and the pickled veggies on a bahn mi or bowl of noodles are my absolute favorite thing about that cuisine. You can make them as a standard pickle, that gets water processed and stored for as long as you like, but they never hang around here long enough to make that worthwhile. Instead, I’m making a batch of refrigerator pickles. They’ll be crisp and delicious in a week, a little sweet, a little sour, a little spicy. Perfect.
And then maybe there’ll be some greens ready in the garden.
Quick Daikon Refrigerator Pickles
A sharp knife, a colander for the veggies, cup measure and measuring spoons, two quart jars.
1.5 lbs fresh daikon radish
.5 lbs carrots
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons salt
.5 c white vinegar
4 c water
6 star anise
Wash and peel both the daikon and the carrots. Cut each into 3 inch lengths, then into slices, then the slices into matchsticks.
Stuff the matchsticked veggies into quart jars. It should neatly fill two, although you might need to convince the last few to fit. Meanwhile, heat up 4 c water in a kettle or pot. Measure your salt, sugar, and vinegar into a heat-proof bowl. Pour the water over, and stir gently until everything has dissolved.
Then pour that brine over the cut veggies in the jars, pop 10 peppercorns and 3 star anise on top, and you’re set to go. Put them in the fridge. In 4 days they’ll be yummy, but they really shine in a week.
You’ll notice that only one of those jars has anise in it: I don’t like it. Not black licorice, star anise, fennel, tarragon, or anything in that flavor family, I’m afraid…including Toms of Maine fennel toothpaste. Blech. But my sweetheart likes it (the toothpaste too), so I’m compromising: some with, some without.
It’s a good reminder, though: it’s YOUR recipe, once you make it. Think it would taste better with less sugar? Cut it down! What about adding some cilantro or mint to the brine? Go for it! The nice thing about refrigerator pickles is that you don’t need to worry about the acid balance or how they’re going to react when you can them. Just soak in brine and eat.
Until next time,
you are making me hungry!
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Since I am on a fermenting kick, I just put up a jar of daikon and carrots. Almost the same ingredients – no sugar or vinegar, yes to garlic, ginger, and turmeric. I think that jar also has some parsley.
I like them fermented too…but the classic Vietnamese quick pickle is delicious. I always snatch them off of others’ plates when we go out for noodles.