Escapades in Pickling (or: Why My Flat Smells Like Vinegar)


Well, I haven’t made proper pickles at all – there was no sterilising involved, I’m not using proper sealing jars (because I smashed the only one that I bought to try out by putting it in boiling water, despite instructions to the contrary) and as a result, the contents of the jars won’t keep for as long as a true pickle would. Having said all that, if this experiment works out then I probably won’t take any further steps towards learning how to do it properly since I can obviously just make do. If I manage to poison myself then I’ll think about it. I did let the jars sit in some boiling water before filling them… Is that good? It was a nod at sterilisation. A brief nod.

I tried my hand at (right to left in above picture)  preserved chili and garlic, radishes and ginger. The whole point is to augment the bento lunches I intend on making at least a couple of days a week – I particularly wanted to make my own pickled ginger to go with the sushi that I’ll definitely maintain the motivation to make. Oh yes, definitely. This won’t be one of my phases. Anyway, while I was at it I thought I may as well try a couple of things. Radishes are one of those things that I buy now and again for stir fries or soups, and then I struggle to use a whole bag before they go soft and wrinkly; not attributes you’re after in a radish. They go like balloons two days after the party, that way where they’re horrible to touch <shudder>. I once put my thumb right through a rotten sweet potato, that memory’s just occurred to me. It was in a shop, too! Not even in my own fridge, which has seen more disgusting food discoveries than I care to admit. For the purpose of that sentence I’m acting like I haven’t lived in ten different houses and therefore used ten different fridges in the last ten years. One of those houses was a stop gap for a month, but it still counts. That’s a lot of fridges. None of them contained the Sweet Potato Horror. To lay that memory back into the dark wastelands again and get back on topic, it occurred to me when I started thinking about pickling ginger that pickled radish might also be good, and a good way to avoid the Post-party Balloon Syndrome. I’d made preserved chili before, though the main use for that process turned out to be to have a chili and apple vinegar, but this time I might actually use the chili rings for something. Like for increasing my tolerance for spicy food by accidentally adding too many to my lunch, perhaps.

I’ll give you a rough idea of what’s in each jar in case you fancy giving it a try yourself. I’d like to state again that I’ve approached this project with no real care for proper preservation, or the stringent hygiene rules that accompany proper pickling, or really any planning. I’ve winged it. I have a friend who used to frustrate us at uni with his insistence that he’d ‘freestyle’ all and any exams. This made me crazy at the time – I suppose my culinary freestyling may invoke a similar level of rage with some people, but I genuinely hope not. Anyway, here’s the lowdown on the nonpickling:

I’ll start with the ginger, which is the least interesting to look at. I did do some minimal research before attempting this, during which I learned that only young ginger will go pink when pickled, so I’m not expecting any change in colour as the stuff I bought was just your average supermarket gear. So, if I can remember rightly (there was a distinct lack of note-taking this evening), I put a cup of rice wine vinegar, a tablespoon of granulated sugar and a tablespoon of salt in a pot, brought to a simmer and poured into a jar containing some thinly sliced ginger – I broke out the mandolin slicer for that job, though I don’t think I was using it right because I did end up with quite a lot of shredded ginger alongside the lovely thin slices that were really what I was after. I put the whole lot in the jar in a flush of devil-may-care-ery.

Here are the preserved radish slices. I won’t mince my words, I think these might be a disaster. I was going for a sweet, salt and sour taste, so they’re in a mixture of rice wine vinegar, apple vinegar, black Chinese vinegar with a tablespoon of ume plum seasoning, a tablespoon of granulated sugar and two teaspoons of pear balsamic vinegar (apply the suffix ‘ish’ to all measurements, incidentally). I brought this to a boil then poured over the radishes, which I’d also sliced in the mandolin. I rather suspect that the result will be horrible coloured, horrible textured slices of blah. Hopefully not, but it’s best to be mentally prepared for the possibility, I think.

PS – yes, that’s a Nutella jar. I told you I wasn’t doing it properly.

Finally, the preserved chili and garlic slices. This concoction had the most effort and ingredients, and I hope it works out well. I put 1/2 teaspoon each of mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a pot with a drop of rapeseed oil and heated until they started popping. They did a lot of popping. I got one in my hair. It was a bit frightening. Then I added two smashed cloves of garlic and 1/2 cup white wine vinegar and 1/2 cup apple vinegar, and brought to the boil, then took out the garlic (and some of the seeds) with a slotted spoon and tipped the liquid over three sliced chilis and the rest of the head of garlic, peeled and thickly sliced. I have no idea if I like pickled garlic or not. I guess I’ll find out. This jar looks the most proper, with the mustard seeds through it, and the nice mix of green, read and white. I hope it comes out tasting good – although at the very least the vinegar should taste nice.

Soooo that is my first go at some kind of preserving, and I hope it turns out well – I’ll be reporting back in due course. I’m also trying to encourage myself in a trend of posting more frequent, but shorter, blog posts. This way I can live up to my resolution of posting more regularly even if I don’t have a couple of hours free.

Note: this post turned out to be quite long, once I went back and revised a bit and added waffle and talk of wrinkly radishes. My plan for shorter posts still stands despite this evidence to the contrary

I’ve put together the Rock Salt UK Week 10 Playlist at great effort this week. You will find that there is very little by way of rock – I didn’t discover rock until I was a teenager, and these are songs I remember from my formative years. I have had the idea for songs from my childhood for ages, but trying to remember them when faced with Spotify turned out to be really difficult. I managed to get the requisite 21 together, though, and here they are. They’re all tunes that I remember from my nursery and primary school days; why these ones stand out isn’t always entirely clear, though I do know that the Lumberjack Song and You Can Call Me Al came as 45 records with the wrods written on the back, which is why they’ve stuck in my mind. There are two Belinda Carlisle songs on there. I blame Miss J, we used to share a bedroom.

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About Rock Salt

Seasoning while rocking out since 1983. View all posts by Rock Salt

6 responses to “Escapades in Pickling (or: Why My Flat Smells Like Vinegar)

  • Ice Maiden

    ROFL at the Rotten Sweet Potato Horror 🙂

  • Silky Sienna

    Well they LOOK pretty, anyway!

    I did used to do a lot of preserving, and sanitizing is key. For items you store at room temperature, that is. If you store it in the fridge, you can get a week, maybe, with just vinegar and no heat-sealing. I sometimes take the brine of a pickle jar, when they are eaten up, and put in a can of sardines to pickle (like pickled herring) and they taste pretty good by the next day.

    Nice photos!

    • rocksaltuk

      Thanks! Great tips, I’m a novice pickler but a keen experimenter… Will get myself a couple of proper jars and follow some instructions next time. In the meantime, I can always buy pickled ginger to keep me going. It’s not cheating, repeat, NOT CHEATING.

      • Silky Sienna

        NOT cheating- Lol…I think you do not have to heat-seal pickled ginger anyway. That is just for a longer shelf-life before opening. If you think about it, when you open a jar of pickled ginger, how long does it last in your fridge?? I snack on mine all the time, simply as a pick me up and because I too love it! I will try to pickle some ginger next…any idea how you can tell when it is young or old? I do sorta like the pink color…

  • rocksaltuk

    Excellent point, it keeps for absolutely ages in the fridge. I’m not sure about telling the age of ginger, though I think that younger roots are smaller and have a pinkish tinge or pink shoots to them? Probably a Chinese supermarket would be better for sourcing it, or maybe a good greengrocers. I’m bad for doing all my shopping at the supermarket so I don’t always get the best quality stuff. Either that or you could just add a bit of beetroot juice or red food dye!

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