The Power of the Pickle

| September 19, 2012

pickle jarThe beloved pickle is a food that has been marinated and allowed to ferment in brine, vinegar or other substance, and is often enhanced with spices such as mustard seed, chilies, cinnamon, coriander, allspice and other cultural flavors.

What is powerful about pickling is that most cultures use it to add crunch, tang, heat and other unique flavor profiles to give food that perfect finish, by adding a spark of flavor that surprises and brightens the eating experience.

Pickling is also popular with most cultures because the process preserves food by anaerobic fermentation in brine (a solution of salt in water) to produce lactic acid. This allows the pickled foods to last for long periods of time and the marinating process enhances the flavors of the pickles.

The most common pickle is of course made with cucumbers, although cabbage, beets and mixed vegetables are often pickled to “spark” a dish.

A good pâté is ordinary without some cornichons, and there is nothing like a gherkin to give you that puckering taste of sweet and sour that adds that special something.

I still love a good “Bread and Butter” pickle since it brings back memories of spring canning at my grandmother’s New Jersey farm. Of course as New Yorkers, one would consider a kosher style “hotdog” naked without its traditional accessories of sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), a really good kosher dill (do you like sour or half sour?) and when you are very lucky, a pickled Green tomato. I may now need to take a break and go to Katz’s, the Stage, or Carnegie Deli and get that “dog” to satisfy the delicious images I have conjured up. Of course, before I do, I would be doing the pickle a disservice by not mentioning all of its global cousins.

pickled brussel sproutsKorean food would be ordinary without “Kimchee” (a traditional fermented dish made of cabbage with a variety of seasonings). Greek food without their pickled vegetables and of course all the Asian cuisines without the marvelous pickled ginger, which is my personal favorite, since it does that certain something to both meats and vegetables. Of course using the pickling juice by adding it to sauces and salad dressings is also amazing.

Pickling is also a technique used for proteins such as the Scandinavian Pickled Salmon and Herring, and of course the Polish Pickled Pigs Feet. I could go on and on since many foods can be and are pickled throughout the world, so take notice of all the ways pickles add to the international food experience and crunch away!

See you at Katz’s!

Filed in: Daily Dish