An open olive bar is a very dangerous place for me to be. I’m not talking about the potential for cross-contamination with messy cubes of marinated feta, always carelessly crumbling beyond their containers, or germs from those who resist the shield of the sneeze guard. For me, the peril is in knowing when to stop. I have yet to meet a pickle I didn’t like, from mild to hot, and I always want to try more. One impulsive glance over the chilled chafing dishes could result in a pound of two of impulse pickles, and a correspondingly hefty bill.
That’s where I met my current pickle fixation, Brazilian biquinho (pronounced bee-keen-yo) peppers.
Also known as sweety drops, they’re tiny tear drop-shaped peppers about the size of a nickel. Their name means “little beak,” owing to their pointed ends. Though most commonly red, you might get lucky and find yellow peppers too.
Think of them as concentrated red bell peppers; all sweet, no heat. For a touch of instant whimsy and elegance, these are the ultimate topper. No prep is needed since you eat them whole, seeds and all, which means they’re always ready to go straight out of the fridge.
If you crave the salty, briny bite of pickles like I do, it’s hard to resist popping them in your mouth straight away. Soft, tender flesh gives way to crunchy seeds for a wholly satisfying bite. Of course, if you can delay that gratification, there’s no end to their use in everyday and special occasion dishes alike. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
Anywhere a cucumber pickle works, these pickled sweety drop peppers will, too. Soon, they’ll be come an indispensable staple on your grocery list, not just a sporadic lucky find. For that, you’re welcome and I’m sorry.
To most Americans, it’s that strange yellow thing in vegetable sushi. Salty, crunchy, and plant-based, it’s otherwise unidentifiable. Those in the know will recognize them as tsukemono, aka “pickled things,” or more specifically oshinko, which is a pickle made with salt. Daikon radish, a woefully under appreciated vegetable, gets to play the leading role here, slowly morphing from bright white to a luminous shade akin to saffron.
All it takes is time, and lots of it. Traditionally, daikon are sun-dried for a few weeks before ever seeing brine, where they then ferment for months. That process alone creates the signature golden hue, although most manufacturers today take shortcuts. Artificial coloring is used liberally, in addition to chemical preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup. These practices are so widespread that few people even know what proper takuan should taste like.
There’s no going back once you cross that line. Ever since getting a bite of authentic takuan, pickled from sun-dried daikon grown in Miyazaki, mass-produced takuan have been ruined for me. It’s impossible to replicate that distinctive crunch, subtly nutty undertone, gentle sweetness, and gently tart flavor. The seasonings serve to enhance the natural flavor of the daikon, rather than cover it up. Like an addict, I’m forever chasing that same high.
“Simple” doesn’t always equate to “easy,” and while it requires little labor, summoning the patience for these pickles to properly mature can be more difficult than the most complex preparation. Ideally, you should set aside two to four full weeks to achieve the proper texture and flavor using traditional methods. Time is the ultimate secret ingredient that no machines can replicate and no amount of money can buy. That said, modern technology can help a good deal; use a dehydrator to expedite the process if you’re worried about leaving food out in the open for that long, don’t have ideal conditions for drying, or just want to get down to the good stuff sooner.
Rich in natural probiotics, takuan is good for your gut, too! No proper Japanese meal is complete without a few slices to contrast with a rich entree, cutting through heavier tastes with a clean, crisp palate cleanser. Once you’ve had the real deal, there’s no going back.
Blinded by the midday sun, slung high above sparse, pillowy clouds, I close my eyes and throw my head back in submission. Ice clinks against the glass in my hand as it slowly melts, shape-shifting into smaller and smaller fragments before giving up on maintaining solid form altogether. Cicadas buzz and sizzle in the heat, flooding the air with their electric symphony. All extraneous details quickly fade away; this could be anywhere in space, at any point in time.
Just like that, days turn into weeks, trickling by without particular notice, blending into one another to create the fabled “endless summer.” Undoubtedly, the heat will persist well beyond the calendar’s seasonal boundaries, strengthening that illusion with every subsequent sunny forecast. Unfortunately, that magic never lasts, choosing to suddenly disappear for its final trick. With it goes the bounty of luscious summer produce. Goodbye to the watermelon and blueberries, so long tomatoes and cucumbers; we know you’ll come visit again, but a year feels like forever away.
We can’t make summer stay, but we can preserve some of that magic. Pickling is one of the easiest ways to save these seasonal gems while injecting some extra flavor. Inspired by the classic cocktail featuring gin and lime juice, gimlet pickles transform simple seedless cucumbers into savory snacks elegant enough to act as a garnish, but without being so fussy as to stand out in a sandwich or served on a charcuterie plate.
Gin contributes a uniquely woodsy flavor, imparted by juniper berries, that reminds me of pine needles with a touch of lemon. Since that can be a bit polarizing, a popular variation on the mix uses vodka instead. Taking a page from that traditional twist, feel free to play around with any distilled spirit you prefer.
Whatever you do, don’t let summer slip away. It may feel limitless right now, but in an instant, it could be swept away by cold winds and dark days. Drink in every savory moment while you still can.
Inundated by the staggering volume and variety of summer’s bounty, even the veteran gardener, cook, and farm stand enthusiast can easily become overwhelmed. The sudden flood of fresh produce can shift from blessing to burden overnight. That extra pound of cucumbers, so crisp and refreshing, the impulsive addition of pinata-striped sweet bell peppers, the peppery little bundle of Easter egg radishes, didn’t seem like much in the shopping basket, but add up in a big way back at home.
Now those prime, promising assets transform into ticking time bombs, turning brown and limp with every passing day. Use it or lose it! they cry, languishing in the back of the fridge. Delay the inevitable and freeze what you can, but don’t forget, there’s an even better method of preservation that’s served our forefathers and mothers well before the invention of the ice box.
Yes, we can. Canning and pickling, stocking up while enhancing natural flavor, is the only way to go. To the uninitiated, there are four barriers to entry into the pickling game. Old fashioned techniques sound too hard, too time consuming, too confusing, and require a bunch of equipment. On the contrary, anyone, young or old, seasoned or inexperienced, can make pickles in 10 minutes or less.
Allow me to introduce Aunt Pearl and Uncle Johnny, the inspiring figures behind Pearl and Johnny. Guided by the motto that “real food is beautiful,” their all-inclusive pickle mixes have nothing to hide, and a whole lot to share. Complete with reusable glass jars to showcase your perfect pickles, all you need to do is supply the vegetables and vinegar. Seasoning blends are as unique and diverse as the fans eating them up, from classic dill to piquant jalapeño-horseradish. Only organic, non-GMO ingredients make the cut, showcasing simple, honest foods at their finest.
The only limit is your imagination. Beyond the standard cucumber, there’s nothing on earth that doesn’t benefit from a bit of brine. Green beans, okra, cauliflower, and zucchini were my picks for this first shot, but far more creative opportunities are at your fingertips. Have you ever eaten pickled avocado? What about whole cloves of garlic? Have you even heard of pickled peaches before?
Consider these easy kits as pickling with training wheels. If you’ve never had the joy of reveling in a root cellar fully stocked with homemade preserves, Pearl and Johnny are here to hold your hand for a proper guided tour.
This review was made possible as a collaboration with Pearl and Johnny. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!
Scrolling across the top of the screen like a slowly spreading poison, the headline “Severe Frost Warning” stops me in my tracks. Every gardener tempts fate near the end of a prolific growing season, pushing the elements to squeeze out the very last drops of warmth and sunshine. Sure, we’re firmly enmeshed in November now, but temperatures rebound and swing wildly for weeks to come. There could still be more produce to reap yet. I’m no gambler though, so the imminent threat of dewy ice crystals sinking their teeth into fragile leaves set off alarm bells. Save the tomato babies! Don’t let the poor things freeze to death!
Hastily plucking all the immature green orbs and thus severing them from their nurturing vines does present a new, obvious problem. Unripe tomatoes can be coaxed to soften and blush to a redder hue with a bit more time on the counter, but with my luck, the stubborn things will refuse to cooperate as nature intended. Half will likely remain just as hard and inhospitable as the day they were picked, while the other half will simply give up the fight early and rot.
Well, not this year. This time, embraced for the astringent, punchy fruits that they are, every last one will be eaten and devoured. Pickled and preserved, this year’s premature harvest will be cherished as if the timing was intentional.
Sticking largely to traditional additions, the goal was to infuse my green cherry tomatoes with a fresh, brightly flavored brine while still yielding a comfortingly familiar sour snack. My dad grew up enjoying larger pickled green tomatoes served on the relish tray all through childhood, either sliced or quartered, but always present no matter the season. His approval will be the ultimate test, so whether or not they pass muster is yet to be seen. Truthfully, I can’t speak to the end results yet, as fresh tomatoes will still need at least a week to attain pickled perfection, but this is a recipe that can’t wait to be shared. Quickly, before the first frost, gather up your own green tomatoes and let them shine with what they already have to offer. With a tiny bit of prep and planning, you’ll have delightful little salty, sour additions to cocktails (best Bloody Mary ever, anyone?), salads, appetizers, and everything in between.