Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mixed Vegetable Refrigerator Pickles with Fennel

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, you can expect to find the following offerings from Sweetwater Farm and Fair Valley Farm:
  • blueberries and marionberries (bake a cobbler)
  • many varieties of greens and cabbage (saute with beans)
  • fennel (make pickles, see below)
  • carrots, turnips, and potatoes
  • broccoli and cauliflower
  • zucchini
  • peppers and tomatoes (make some fresh salsa for fish tacos)
  • fresh herbs, including basil and parsley
  • onions and garlic
  • tomato sauce and pesto (make fresh pasta)
  • pickles and sauerkraut
  • homemade jams
  • fresh eggs
  • pastured chicken (try spatchcocking)
  • pork chops, pork roast, ham, ground pork, ground sausage meat, and bacon (treat yourself to a summer BLT)
  • lamb (try these gozleme)

Sweetwater Farm's tender, young fennel bulbs are a summer treat. I love fennel raw sliced or grated in salads, roasted, or sautéed in a seafood pasta sauce. This past week I experimented with a new approach of pickling fennel with other summer vegetables, following this recipe from food52, and it was delicious. Along with the fennel, I used a combination of Sweetwater Farm’s zucchini, summer squash, carrots, and cauliflower.

The zucchini and summer squash spears got a salty ice water bath to crisp them up, and then everyone got nestled into their pint jars and doused with a salty sweet vinegar brine flavored with mustard and fennel seeds, turmeric, and red pepper flakes. It was hard to resist eating them right away, but these refrigerator pickles definitely improved with a few days' soak. All of the vegetables were delicious, but my favorite was the fennel with its firm crunch and strong anise flavor asserting itself over the sharp vinegar brine. These are great paired with a sharp cheese as a pre-dinner snack so that you can savor the sunshine a little longer before getting dinner on the table.

Mixed Vegetable Refrigerator Pickles with Fennel
Makes 4 pint jars

4 small zucchini
 or summer squash
1 large or several small carrots

1 fennel bulb (with fronds attached)

4 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered

2 tsp fennel seed

2 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp turmeric powder

½ teaspoon chili flakes

3 tablespoons kosher salt, divided

1 ¼ cup water

2 ½ cups apple cider vinegar

¼ cup sugar

1. Wash and cut the summer squash into spears that fit the height of the jars you are using. Place the spears in a bowl with ice water and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the salt. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. This will keep the spears crisp when pickled.

2. If using small carrots, simply scrub and trim their fronts and tips, or for larger ones, peel them and cut them into spears. Wash and slice the fennel in ¼-inch pieces, reserving the fennel fronds. Wash and separate the cauliflower into small florets.

3. In a saucepan combine the spices, 2 Tbsp of salt, sugar, vinegar, and water. Bring to a simmer, and then turn off heat.

4. Place the cut vegetables in 4 clean pint jars. Add a chopped garlic clove and a couple pieces of fennel frond to the jars.

5. Carefully pour the hot brine over the vegetables until submerged. Cover and refrigerate for at least one day. Well sealed refrigerator pickles will keep for 1 month.

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