At restaurants around town, more and more chefs are extending the farm-to-table lexicon to include farmstead traditions like pickling.
With the technique, vegetables and fruits pop with freshness. Spices, sweeteners and vinegars vary - the flavor combinations as unique as each chef’s personality.
Kitchen Kulture chef Michael Miller doesn’t rely on a recipe. He and business partner Chris Meyer select fresh, seasonal ingredients to pickle each week from area farmers. “People really like the pickles,” Meyer says. “This spring, the beautiful pink color of the pickled radishes caused people to stop at our booth. Customers with a Southern, rural background know they want the pickled beets. Foodies – the younger people – they’ll try different things, so we’ve had good response.”
“You can pickle just about anything,” Miller says. “I rarely reference recipes. I’ve been cooking long enough I know the ratios [for pickling brines]. I taste each vegetable then decide how to spice it. For strong flavors, like radishes, lime and basil work well. For beets, I like to complement their natural sweetness with cinnamon or ginger. I add ingredients as I work.”
Kitchen Kulture sells its restaurant-quality pickles, entrees, sides and desserts, ready to take home, each Saturday morning at Tower Grove Farmers Market. This fall, look for pickled sweet peppers, cauliflower and beets. They’ll also offer a special chow-chow, a traditional old-fashioned pickled relish, made from a medley of fall vegetables. (Get Miller’s pickled beet recipe here.)
Pickling adds a cachet and brings a newness to even the simplest foods. The first bite of house-pickled red onions, cucumber or radishes on the blue plate lunch salad at Farmhaus grabs your attention. Mildly vinegary and sweet, the pickles punctuate the earthiness of the dark, green spinach and enliven the bland creaminess of the hard-boiled egg. They echo the saltiness of the crispy, house-baked lavash, too. In super-quick fashion, servers drop the vegetables in a room-temperature brine for a minute or two just before they plate each salad. The taste is remarkable.
At Milagro Modern Mexican, the addition of hibiscus flowers to the restaurant’s brine brings a Mexican twist to the pickled onions. “We use them mainly as a garnish on the beef burritos and the pork street tacos. Customers love them. First taste, they usually ask, ‘Hey, what is that?’” says Craig Bielke, general manager. The restaurant pickles jalapenos tasty enough to tempt even the heat-shy diner. On Sundays, you can stir your Bloody Maria with slender pickled green beans or asparagus spears for a change from celery.
Sunday brunch at Vin de Set gets a special kick from the assortment of housemade pickled vegetables they offer with their Bloody Mary Bar. “People can pick out which vegetables they like with their drink,” co-owner Wendy Hamilton says.
You can order fresh pickles as an appetizer from the lunch, dinner and appetizer menus at Vin de Set, too. Look for cauliflower, carrots, peppers, shallots, radishes, fennel, garlic and zucchini on this plate. Pickling intensifies the colors, so the veggies look as good as they taste.
Vin de Set shared the recipe for their tasty pickle potpourri, so you can make them at home. Additionally, Wendy Hamilton included a personal favorite recipe from her mother-in-law. “Paul and his mom would make these refrigerator pickles together every fall when she visited us.”
Kitchen Kulture, Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, Saturdays through Nov. 3, email@example.com
Vin de Set, 2017 Chouteau, Lafayette Square, 314.241.8989, vindeset.com
Farmhaus, 3257 Ivanhoe Ave., Lindenwood, 314.647.3800, farmhausrestaurant.com
Milagro Modern Mexican, 20 Allen Avenue, Suite 130, Webster Groves, 314.962.4300, milagromodernmexican.com
Mom Hamilton’s Refrigerator Pickles
By Paul and Wendy Hamilton, Vin de Set, Eleven Eleven Mississippi, PW Pizza
Yields | 4 to 5 pints |
- 5 lbs small cucumbers
- 1/2 cup non-iodized salt
- water to cover cucumbers during salting
- 4 cups white vinegar
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/2 tsp yellow or brown mustard seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp celery seeds
- 2 large Spanish onions
- 12 cloves garlic, peeled
| Preparation | Wash, but don’t peel cucumbers. Cut in slices, just under 1/4-inch thick. Place cut cucumbers in a 1-gallon non-reactive container and add salt. Toss to mix. Add enough water to cover, then refrigerate salted cucumbers for 3 hours. Near the end of 3 hours, make the brine. Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, mustard seeds and celery seeds in a large non-reactive container. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Peel and slice the onions into rings 1/8-inch thick. Separate rings. At the end of 3 hours, drain and rinse cucumbers. Toss with onions and garlic cloves. Pour cucumbers, onions and garlic cloves back into the 1-gallon container. Pour the vinegar-sugar-spice mix over all. Cover and return to the refrigerator and allow one week for pickling.
- vegetables and whole spices*
- 3 heads cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
- 8 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
- 15 to 20 shallots, peeled and quartered
- • 6 to 7 peppers, assorted bell and sweet, seeds, ribs and stems removed, then cut in a rough chop
- 4 lbs radishes (greens removed, trimmed and quartered)
- 3 to 4 fennel bulbs, quarter, core, then cut the bulb in a large julienne
- • 20 large cloves garlic, peeled
- • 3 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then cut diagonally into a half-moon shape
- • 1/4 lb tarragon, stems removed
- • 1/2 lb dill, stems removed
Note: You can customize the vegetable mix to your liking, keeping the proportions similar.
| Preparation – Vegetables | Mix all vegetables and herbs together in a 1-gallon non-reactive container. Set aside.
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 4 cups water
- 1 3/4 cups non-iodized salt
- 1 gallon white wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups pickling spice
- 1/2 cups celery seed
- 10 to12 whole star anise
| Preparation | Combine sugar, water, salt vinegar and spices in a large non-reactive pot. Stir over medium high heat to dissolve sugar, then bring brine to a full boil. Pour hot brine over vegetables and herbs. Place a plate and a weight?, like a jar of beans? Over the top to keep
Vegetables submerged in brine. Place in the refrigerator and let chill overnight.
Bring brine to a full boil and pour over vegetables. Place a plate over the top to keep all vegetables submerged in brine. Place in cooler and let chill overnight.
Pickled Ginger Beets
By Michael Miller, Kitchen Kulture
Yield | 8 to 10 pints |
- 10 lbs small beets, under 3-inches in diameter, greens removed
- water to cover
| Preparation – Beets | Wash beets to remove dirt and sand. Cut stem end off but leave root end attached. Place beets in a large pot, cover with water and cook over medium high heat for 30 to 40 minutes until tender. Drain and cool. Rub skins off beets. At Kitchen Kulture, they use a soft towel to rub off the skins. Cut beets in halves or quarters, depending on the size. Cut off the root end as well. Place beets in a large non-reactive bowl or container.
- 4 quarts distilled water
- 1 quart red wine vinegar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup non-iodized salt
- 4-inch piece ginger root, sliced across root in 3/8-inch pieces
- 2 Tbsps coriander seeds
- 1 tsp whole white peppercorns
| Preparation – Brine | In a large non-reactive pot combine distilled water, vinegar, sugar, salt, ginger root, coriander seeds and peppercorns. Bring mixture to a low boil, stirring occasionally. Pour hot brine over cooked beets. Cover and refrigerate when cooled. Allow the flavors to develop overnight. Divide into smaller containers. Store in the refrigerator.