Maybe you’re like me. Maybe like me, you can’t follow recipes. I don’t know why but invariably, I skip things, miscalculate amounts and eventually get pretty stressed out. Following recipes is very hard for me. I really admire people who can bake; baking is a precise science one I know I’ll never master.
If you’re like me and love pickles then I invite you to read on. I think pickles are great – on rice, in salads, on fried eggs – on loads of things. But before I go much further, let me just put this out there. I know zero about canning or pickling. Nothing about fermenting. So to any fermentation slash pickling slash canning expert out there reading this, you’ve read my disclaimer. So, please be kind!
The only “pickle” (and I put the word in inverted commas because it’s not made in the traditional way of putting the jar in a hot bath) I’ve ever made is what I call a “fridge pickle”. You make it, put it in the fridge, and eat it really quickly before it goes weird.
In South Korea, I learnt they eat radish pickles with fried chicken. Doesn’t that sound good? Pickles and fried chicken? I went online to figure out how to do this. All the online recipes describe using Korean daikon, cut into little cubes (perfectly white and even look crunchy) to make this type of pickle.
First, I couldn’t find Korean daikon. Instead, I found purple daikon. So I bought that.
Once I brought them home, I was too excited to research recipes for ‘purple daikon pickle’ and in any case, I’ve already explained my relationship to recipes. No doubt you’ll find there are hundreds of purple daikon pickle recipes online.
I figured I might as well go for it!
So, I peeled and cut the purple daikon into circles. Where I come from, we don’t grow daikon, so I wasn’t sure what to expect once I sliced into them. But look how beautiful they are on the inside – like an explosion of fire works.
In the past, I’ve made onion “fridge pickles”. That recipe begins with vinegar and sugar so that was my jumping off point . Then, I added ingredients I like. If you want to try making it and prefer having a rough guide, here are the ingredients I used.
To a cast-iron pot, I added:
- 3.5 cups of vinegar (I added the .5 cup at the end because it didn’t seem like enough liquid)
- 2.5 tablespoons of sugar (Again, I added the .5 tbs at the end. It seemed to need a little more to pull it together!)
- 2 wiri-wiri peppers halved (This variety of pepper is from Guyana; it’s small, red and hot with an amazing flavor I’ve never experienced in any other pepper – EVER!) (But really, any hot pepper will do.)
- 3 cloves of garlic ‘gently’ smashed
- about 5-7 coriander seeds (I remember seeing this in a radish pickle recipe and thought, why not?)
- Oh! And about 1/2 a teaspoon salt. I brought it to a boil and then I let it rest for about 10 minutes.
I brought this to a low boil. After about 10-15 minutes cooling time, I added the daikon. (I let the liquid cool because I didn’t want to cook the radish. It should be crunchy.)
Then, I let the daikon sit in the vinegar bath for about 2 minutes before gently turning it and allowing the pieces on top to get into the vinegar bath as well.
As if by magic, the daikon transformed from light pink to alizarin crimson. How beautiful the colour became once all the pieces were submerged!
After a little while, all the slices relaxed into the vinegar bath cooling and soaking up the sour and sweet, the garlic and the heat from the peppers!
Finally, this was the result! The colour is so beautiful and – well – the flavour is amazing too.
So far, I’ve had them in salad, (yum!) cut them into sticks, on the side of chicken curry (also yum!) and in cole-slaw. They’re crunchy and peppery, tart with the tiniest kiss of sweet.
Recipes are great and can give you exact results every time. They can be comforting in that sense. But perhaps you can ignore the sketchy recipe outlined above and buy a few purple daikon and take it in any direction you want.
Perhaps, you can look on this as a challenge. Buy an ingredient you’ve never tried to cook before, an ingredient you’ve never eaten. If you’re really worried, look up a few images of how this ingredient is used in different dishes! Conflate ideas or better yet – just go for it. What do you have to lose? The reward is in the fun, the adventure. You might just find loads of pleasure in the no-recipe life!