Flash pickles made with cucumber, carrot and asparagus slices, crunchy and zesty, are ready in a couple of hours from scratch.
Debunking food myths
There are some quite peculiar myths concerning food and eating that people believe in. I won’t touch various diets here or I’d never get to the recipe itself but the delusion that fat makes you fat reigned unquestioned for years.
Some convictions sound bonkers but contain a grain of truth. My grandmother believed you should never drink water after eating fruit and my mum thought eating too quickly gave you indigestion. Both my ancestors were not so terribly wrong though I certainly scorned their wisdom at the time.
But even though most elderly people will still be wary of eating too many eggs, they don’t necessarily cause cholesterol build-up to kill you.
Chocolate doesn’t always give you spots, how late you eat does not affect your weight (hint: it’s how much) and detoxing is carried out brilliantly by our liver, without help from any magic supplements.
Cooking has its share of unicorns, too: that juicing is healthy (it’s not! you discard all the dietary fibre!), all pork has to be cooked through (not if it’s loin and well-sourced), that oil stops cooked pasta from sticking, that milk adds value to scrambled eggs and that curdled cake batter is a write-off.
And that it takes industrial quantities and weeks of maturing to make good pickles.
It most certainly doesn’t: you can pickle a single cucumber in the afternoon and have it ready for supper.
What are bread and butter pickles?
They call pickled cucumbers ‘bread and butter’ pickles in the US which is quite interesting.
The name most certainly goes back to the Great Depression when even in the cities most houses had a patch to grow easy, cheap vegetables on (i.e. cukes) and they’d make easy, cheap sandwich filler; first fresh, later on preserved.
But of course the idea of putting cucumber slices into bread and butter surely derives from the Edwardian afternoon tea and soggy, crustless cucumber sandwiches.
What vegetables can be pickled?
Or fruit, as technically cucumbers are classified as fruit. They are the classic, and the smaller specimens the better: varieties like ridge or mini cucumbers.
But when in season, asparagus is a funky crunch and carrot, thinly sliced, adds variety and colour.
You can also slice baby beetroot, add strips of red or yellow peppers or any other vegetables you would fancy prepared this way.
How to make flash pickles?
Sliced ingredients need to be softened a little with salt and some sugar, that is the stage that takes the longest: about two hours in the fridge.
The pickling liquor is brown sugar with vinegar and assorted, wonderful aromatics: peppercorns, coriander, mustard and allspice. A jar of pickles will also include a small Birdseye chilli and lots of dill – no pickles without dill, in my books.
Hot pickling liquor is poured over the vegetables and we need to stir them in it a couple of times, so all the individual slices are evenly soused.
And that’s pretty much it: into a clean jar they go, and after only an hour in the fridge, they are ready to be sampled.
What’s important, these pickles do not cook the vegetables so even some vitamin C is preserved, and the fat-soluble vitamins all stay intact.
What are pickles best with?
The classic company for pickles is cold meats – charcuterie if you’re posh or French. But I cannot imagine a burger without a slice of gherkin, or flash pickle.
These are also wonderful with a cheese board.
And you could put them on a cheese-filled baked potato, making it a little bit like raclette.
Plus, of course, their true destiny is in a bread-and-butter sandwich – in the spirit of Great Depression!
More condiment recipes
Fig confit is a confiture made with fresh figs, with whole chunks of figs in syrup made with port or madeira wine. This fig confit is more versatile than jam; use it with cheese and meats.
Slow roasted strawberries become jammy but not too sickly, coated in luscious syrup, and they have a multitude of uses in desserts, cakes and afternoon tea confections.
Homemade mayo, so rich and smooth you can eat it on its own. Patience in dripping oil into the mixer drop by drop pays off tenfold.
More pickle recipes
Quick pickled jalapeno peppers, crunchy and sweet and hot. The best pickled jalapenos are homemade, and these are ready within about an hour. Make sure you wear gloves!
Roasted balsamic shallots, baked with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Sweet and tart glaze and rosemary fragrance makes these an irresistible side, condiment or a snack.
Basic kimchi is made with Napa cabbage, called Chinese leaf in the UK. To make kimchi, you salt the cabbage, then add spice paste made from gochugaru, the Korean chili powder, fish and soy sauce and leave to ferment for up to a week.