I think it’s rather obvious at this point that I’m a big fan of pickles. It’s possible that I like making pickles even more than I like eating them. Possible, but it’s a close call. One of my favorite parts of making pickles is the waiting. You do all the work up front, but you can’t tell how they’ll turn out for weeks. Maybe someone with a bit more experience in pickle-making could taste a pickle that hasn’t been aged and tell immediately what it will be like in a week or a month, but not me. I’m not in a hurry to learn though; that anticipation is great. There’s always some chance that when you crack open the jar, it will turn out to be horrible…and that’s happened to me a few times. But it makes the times it does work that much better.
These pickles were one of the good surprises. They definitely exceeded my expectations. I based them (very loosely) on the bread and butter zucchini from The Joy of Pickling (an excellent resource for pickles of all kinds.) I’d made those previously (by the book the first time) and they turned out wonderfully, but my favorite part was the onions. This time I wanted to focus even more on the onions. I wasn’t quite ready to go for full-on pickled onions with nothing else, so I tossed in a few bell peppers. Honestly, the peppers are good, but completely superfluous.
I also wanted to play up the spices a bit, and thought I might as well mix them up while I was at it. A few months back I was at the Spice House and saw cassia buds. I’d never seen them before and was curious. They let me take one to taste and it was lovely…like cinnamon, but decidedly sweeter and more mellow, with floral top notes. I had no idea what I would do with them, but I had to get some. Well, right on the label it says they’re commonly used in some Asian pickles. Perfect! I thought they would pair well with some bright coriander. And now, a few weeks later, these onions confirm that choice.
Adapted (wildly) from The Joy of Pickling‘s Bread and Butter Zucchini
These pickles have a lot in common with traditional bread and butter pickles, but they have a lot in…uncommon…too. The spices are definitely present, but not overwhelming. The star here is the sweet, tangy onions themselves.
1 lb onions, cut into 1/4″ thick rings
1/2 lb bell peppers, cut into 1/4″ thick rings
1/8 cup salt
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp whole coriander
1 Tbsp cassia buds (you could probably substitute about 1″ cinnamon stick)
Toss the onions and peppers with the salt, then cover with about a tray of ice cubes. Let it sit for about 2 hours. Drain throughly.
Bring all remaining ingredients to a boil in a medium pan. Add the onions and peppers and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Scoop all the onions and peppers into a quart jar and pour in enough of the liquid to cover. (You’ll probably have some leftover liquid, but to me it’s easier to just have some extra than to run low.) You could use a 2 piece cap and process these in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, or you could just use an old pickle jar with a regular lid and eat them all within a month or so.
Let sit in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks, then enjoy.
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