August. What to do with all that goodness? In August, my garden bursts forward with more fruits, veggies, and herbs than we and all our friends can possibly consume at once. And that is why, today, I went into a pickling frenzy. But if you are going to go to that effort, you want an exceptional product to result. So, like many things that come out of my kitchen, there is a strong Asian influence.
This morning I made three types of Pan-Asian pickles.
And I also happen to have a bumper crop of red shiso this year. I planted red shiso about fifteen years ago in my garden, and I’ve never had to plant it again. I just let it go to seed and it pops up in the most peculiar places. It’s a beauty, with fluffy red leaves, and very tasty too. Some people say it tastes like a cross between basil and mint. I don’t get that, but whatever.
It is a big part of Japanese cuisine, introduced there between the 8th and 9th centuries. It is the coloring that is used to make umi boshi (yummy pickled plums) and that red-colored ginger that you often get with sushi. Some people say that red shiso is not as good raw as green shiso, but I like it.
So this first recipe is hardly a recipe at all. Also, it is not-necessarily Pan-Asian, but deep roots Asian. But it has Pan-Asian applications and is good to know about.
Pick a whole bunch of red shiso, wash it and dry it. I used a salad spinner and then laid them on a towel. Push them into a clean jar and then fill the jar with rice wine vinegar. Let it set at room temperature overnight and then refrigerate it for about three weeks before you open the jar back up.
You then have two products. One is shiso vinegar, which can be used in a variety of ways, like to make simple Japanese pickles like cucumbers or sliced daikon. Or, you can use it to make a rocking shrub beverage by mixing a little bit with soda water, to your taste. The other product, pickled shiso, is excellent as a condiment with sushi or even plain rice. I suppose you could put into a ban mi sandwich. Use your imagination.
Pickled Nashi with Kizami Shoga
This recipe uses those undersized Japanese apple-pears (nashi) that grow in our orchard. It is a twist on the “Pickled Asian Pear with Lemon” recipe in Karen Solomon’s wonder and inspiring book called Asian Pickles (Ten Speed Press).
First make a brine out of 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup of mirin and the juice and zest of a lemon. Simmer it in a saucepan until the sugar melts and then dump in about two pounds of peeled, cored and quartered nashi. Put the pieces in as you peel them to minimize browning of the fruit. Then put on a pot of water to boil. Once it comes to a boil, fish out the pieces of fruit and poach them about five minutes. Drain the pears in a colander and then dump them back into the pickling medium. At this point I threw in about ¼ cup of sliced red pickled ginger (see above), called Kizami Shoga.
This resulted in two quarters of really beautiful pickled nashi, with a bit of an orange glow.
You can then store the jars in the fridge for a week or so before opening, or you can proceed to do a hot water bath for a longer shelf life.
Pickled Figs with Kaffir Lime Leaves
This recipe is inspired, if I do say so myself. I based it on a basic Pickled Fig with Balsamic in Grace Parisi’s excellent The Quick Pickle Cookbook (Quarry Books).
I found that about 14 of my rather large Green Desert figs was just right for two quart jars of pickles. After pricking them a few times, I poached them about five minutes in a brine containing equal amounts of white balsamic vinegar, water and sugar (about ¾ cup), 2 kaffir lime leaves, and about a tablespoon of grated ginger.
I then packed the figs into two quart jars, each containing one kaffir lime leaf and one sprig of rosemary and filled them with the brining liquid. Holy smokes, the figs will be a great appetizer and the brine will be good for all kinds of things.
That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.