In a Pickle

This week’s Preserve the Bounty challenge was preservation in vinegar, a.k.a. the other sort of pickling. Now that I’ve got the gist of pickling through fermentation and have quart jars of sauerkraut and dill pickles mellowing in the refrigerator, somehow vinegar-based pickles feel like a step back. Or maybe I’m just having flashbacks to the quick fennel pickles I attempted back in June, which were overly salty and utterly confounding; I never did figure out a way to use them.

The timing of this event doesn’t work very well with my purchasing schedule, since I go to the farmer’s market every other Saturday and don’t know how I’m going to be preserving until Monday or Tuesday, so I have just been figuring out ways to use what I’ve got on hand for the challenge. I fermented cucumber pickles last week, and might have gotten a few extra to put up in vinegar for a comparison had I known this was the week’s challenge. Ah well, this gave me the opportunity to try my hand at some less familiar (to me) pickled vegetables, Swiss chard stems and okra.

I’ve long been a fan of using both the leaves and stems of Swiss chard, starting with pizzoccheri back in 2006. How could you not, when the stems are so meaty and brilliantly colored? While prepping a pile of chard from my favorite local, organic farm, it suddenly crossed my mind that the stems could be pickled. Sure enough, there was a recipe—from Gramercy Tavern in New York, no less—for refrigerator-pickled chard stems. I had only one bunch of stems, but made up the whole recipe of brine using apple cider vineger (and leaving out the beet, as I hadn’t purchased any).

With the excess brine, I decided to be bold and pickle a handful of baby okra, adding a touch of red pepper flakes for heat. From what I understand, acid keeps the mucilaginous qualities of okra in check. Although I have now cooked okra successfully twice now, both using dry heat and a bit of acid, the picky eater in me still cringes at the mere sound of the word (and have I mentioned the fact that I don’t even really eat cucumber pickles?), so I have no idea if I will be able to muster up the courage to sample this jar.

My main question for this week is, what the heck should I be doing with these pickles now? Just like the fennel pickles from two months ago, I look at the pretty jars in my refrigerator and scratch my head. There’s pretty much no way I’m just going to be eating them straight out of the jar. Should I be chopping them up to use like relish or giardiniera in sandwiches and tuna salad? Or can anyone suggest recipes that call for off-the-wall pickled vegetables? Tell me quick, because my refrigerator is filling up with ferments and pickles, and I think the goal of preserving this stuff is to use it eventually. 🙂

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