Monday, April 27, 2009

Pickled Pink

Red pickled onion

As soon as I saw the deep pink ringlets on top of a dish, I needed to know what they were, how to get hold of them, or better still, how to make them. Turns out that this eye catching magenta tuft is made by pickling slices of red onions, which renders them translucent, yet opaque, soft, yet crunchy, sweet, yet spicy. I consulted google, of course, and by comparing the first 5 which came up (1), I concluded:

All of the recipes use red onions, obviously, the amount of which ranged from 1- 1 ½ large ones to 1 ½ lbs. Vinegar is another must, with most recipes using white (pickling) vinegar, and only one opting for cider vinegar. Most use sugar and salt, with one each either forsaking the salt OR the sugar.

Four out of 5 used sugar and salt, 2 out of 5 added water.

Beyond that: simply spice it up with whatever you’ve got: allspice berries, bay leaves, black pepper corns, coriander seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks, chillies, ginger, garlic, juniper berries, lime juice, oregano, thyme, star anise.

This is what I used:

Red Onion Pickle (G & T recipe #4)

2 red onions

Cider vinegar

3 tbsp of honey

Pinch of sea salt

1 tsp of black peppercorns

2 bay leafs

5 allspice berries

5 juniper berries

1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced

5 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

1 dried chilli, broken into pieces

½ teaspoon of dried oregano

1 cup lemon juice

1 tsp of coriander seeds

1 star anise

Thinly sliced pieces of ginger

The methods described varied quite a bit, and I opted – surprise, surprise – for a straight forward, simple one:

I heated the herbs, salt and spices in a non-reactive pan, stirring them with a wooden spoon.

After a minute or two, I added the vinegar and honey and brought the mixture to a boil. Then I added the onions slices, lowered the heat and simmered the mixture for 2 or 3 minutes.

When the pickle is cool enough, it can be filled into jars. It seems to be received wisdom to let it mature for a while. As long as it’s covered by the vinegar, it will probably keep indefinitely.

This vivid pink pickle doesn’t just look spectacular, it is also incredibly versatile. I’ve eaten it with a nice mature cheddar, I bet goat’s cheese is fabulous with it, and I’ve seen pictures where it accompanies roast pork, grilled steak, burgers, Mexican food, and as a side dish to kebabs with a horseradish cream sauce. D.L. even recommends it chopped into potato salad, and he uses the liquid to add tang to a coleslaw. The Boy thinks it’s the delicious pink stuff he had on a noodle dish at Wagamama.


(1) Rachael's site ; Global Gourmet, where they use Mollie Katzen's recipe from Vegetable Heaven, Epicurious, David Lebovitz, Orangette


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