August 12, 2008

Gingered Sweet Pickled Cauliflower

When I was a kid my parents would always have sweet mixed pickled vegetables in our fridge. Eschewing the mundane cucumbers and the kid-unfriendly pearl onions, I would fish around in the jar for every last piece of cauliflower. As an adult I discovered that they sell jars of all cauliflower!! But the flavor is never as complex and appealing as the cauliflower in the mixed sweets. After making a batch of refrigerator pickles, I had pickles on the brain when I made my first shopping trip to the new Whole Foods in Rochester Hills. As promised there was a good selection of local produce. As I first walked in the door a pile of large, beautifully white, local cauliflower caught my eye. I knew immediately that I wanted to try my hand at making a more flavorful sweet pickled cauliflower. I grabbed a head of cauliflower along with a hot chile, some garlic and a good three finger piece of fresh ginger and headed home. Canning is hot, steamy, messy business so the cool, breezy weather this past Sunday was perfect. I took a basic sweet cauliflower recipe and added in my chosen aromatics. The results were delicious! I think I overcooked the cauliflower a little since they weren't as crunchy as I would have liked but I loved the flavors. The ginger and chile were just what I was craving. There was the right amount of heat and a powerful gingery component. If I have time soon, I'm making them again because I know I'm going to snack my way through these jars quickly. This week was a perfect time to make these because it's my father's birthday on Saturday and he should love these hot and sweet pickles. Now, if I can just find some pearl onions for the next batch...

Here is my recipe, along with the original I based it on and links to more information on canning:
Gingered Sweet Pickled Cauliflower
Makes ~5 pints

12 cups cauliflower florets, 1-2 inch pieces
4 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 cups thinly sliced sweet onion
1 hot red chile pepper, thinly sliced (I think mine was a cayenne)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated ginger

The base of this recipe as well as full instructions can be found at the
National Center for Home Canning. Please read Using Boiling Water Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, you should also read Principles of Home Canning.

-After trimming and measuring, wash the cauliflower florets and boil in salted water for 3 minutes for cauliflower. Drain and cool.
-Measure out your mustard seed and place in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast the mustard seeds. You'll know they're done when they start jumping around and popping.
-Add the mustard seeds to a large pot with the other spices, vinegar, sugar, onion, chile, and garlic. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes.
-Distribute the onion and a good spoonful of spices into the bottom of each jar. Then fill the jars with florets and top it off with more pickling solution, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace.
-Follow the boiling water method timing for your altitude shown on Table 1. For those at sea level using pint sized jars they should be processed for 10 minutes.
-They'll be best if you let the flavors to develop for a few days before consuming but go ahead and eat them as soon as they're cooled off.

My aromatics
[sweet onion, ginger, mustard seed, hot red chile, garlic, turmeric (mostly for color)
and Comet's Tail black pepper (I just think they are pretty)]

The brine after simmering Filling the jars I love the look of cauliflower closeup!

Other pickling related stuff:
I used this recipe for dan koshansky’s refrigerator pickles from A Way to Garden and they were delicious. The cucumbers and dill came from my father in law's garden. (Thanks Papou!) You have to stop in and see the Chinese Red Noodle beans and other cool plants she's growing.

Cincinnati Locavore has a good article, Killer Canning, or How to Avoid Poisoning Anyone. It gives some rules about how to be careful when trying new canning recipes. My personal opinion is that if you find a recipe that looks good but you don't feel like it's trustworthy then make a smaller batch and refrigerate. Then you can eat within a week or two.