Pickling is a delicious and simple way to enjoy and preserve seasonal fruit and vegetables all year round.
A pickle is commonly defined as a small cucumber preserved in vinegar or salt, but in fact, beetroot, cabbage, zucchini and onions all make great pickles too. You can go sweet, savoury, tangy, spicy or crunchy — the options are endless!
One man who knows plenty about this is Eugene Lee, head chef at Brisbane Indian restaurant Indriya. His verdict on pickles?
“As long as the ingredients are fresh they are good for pickles,” he said.
The great thing about pickles is they’re a great way to preserve fresh produce. If you don’t think you’ll get to all those beetroots or tomatoes before they spoil, you can pickle them. Or if you’re going to toss out those broccoli stalks, you should know they also make tasty pickles.
And it isn’t just a cost-saver, it’s smart! Fresh produce is filled with nutrients, and pickles can also increase the good bacteria in your gut thanks to the fermentation process. Pickling is a form of fermentation and when fruit and vegetables are fermented, healthy bacteria help break down the hard-to-digest cellulose in foods.
One of the best things about pickling is its versatility. Counties around the world have their own take on pickling, meaning you can incorporate all sorts of flavours and ingredients into the mix.
If you’re bored with regular supermarket pickles, try making Korean-style kimchi with cabbage and radishes, Japanese pickled ginger, European-style sauerkraut, or Indian achar, which often uses turnips, cauliflower and carrot as well as loads of lovely spices.
Homemade pickles are easier to master than you think.
Pickling, much like jamming and canning, was once a thrifty necessity that has experienced a resurgence in recent years. While at-home pickling may seem old-fashioned now, the skill doesn’t have to die out, so we chatted with Lee to find out his tips for perfect homemade pickles.
When it comes to pickling, Lee says it’s important to maintain a high level of cleanliness. If your jars are in bad condition or haven’t been sterilised, bacteria potentially could grow and spoil the contents.
It’s fair to say there is nothing worse than a soggy, crunch-less pickle. For an extra crunch, Lee recommends adding a pinch of salt before pickling. The salt contains the minerals calcium and magnesium, which reinforce the cell walls during fermentation, keeping the pickles nice and firm.
“Salting the vegetable first before pickling will result in a more crunchy texture after,” he explains.
If the pickles are already soggy, Lee has an alternative solution — turn them into a relish. He recommends scooping out all the pickles, and saucing some garlic or onion with dried chilli flakes to make a delicious relish — guests won’t even know they were soggy to start!
To punch up the flavour, Lee suggests experimenting with different spices and herbs. He recommends adding a few wilted leftover tea leaves for an extra kick!
Feeling inspired? Lee shared with us a delicious recipe from Indriya.