Do This!: How to Get Pickled with Happy Girl Kitchen

Let's Get Pickled!

Let's Get Pickled!

Pickles have come a long way from the days of our friend the classic Vlasic stork. It is never more apparent that just about anything can not only be pickled, but improved upon with the process. Pickling is one of the top 5 food trends this year, and in NYC, Rick’s Picks, Brooklyn Brine, and McClures have all shown us that while the classic cucumber is great, things like a whiskey sour blend or maple bourbon bread & butter is even better. And if you stray down the vegetable path you may find that creative combos like chipotle carrots, Moroccan green beans or fennel beets also make for a welcomed variety of pickled punch. It’s not just about sandwich stackers anymore.

Nothing fascinates me more than when true artisans take a kitchen-staple and reinvent the approach with new flavor combos that bring excitement to a rather standard world. Well maybe one thing fascinates me more — demystifying the process and learning that something that delighted you out of the jar can easily be made in your own kitchen.

2012 is the year of getting back to the basics and doing things from scratch.

Happy Girl Kitchen Preserves

Happy Girl Kitchen Preserves

A recent trip to Happy Girl Kitchen in Pacific Grove, CA was the perfect venue for said fascinations. Happy Girl Kitchen is run by a husband and wife team, Todd and Jordan Champagne, who had worked on local farms for years, but found the art of food preservation was fading into a thing of the past. Dedicated to supporting the local, organic food community and teaching people how to enjoy their favorite local seasonal bounty in the off-season, the couple launched Happy Girl Kitchen as a brand that offers the very best in artisan preserves, workshops and events in the Bay Area. Start with the right ingredients, add passion and creativity and you’ve got a line of products that will improve any table. Happy Girl is not only dedicated to happy fork licking, but is also giving people the tools to carry out food preservation in their own kitchens by teaching these techniques at their weekly workshops. “Teach a man to fish…” These are good people.

Beautiful Pickling Ingredients

Beautiful Pickling Ingredients

The five hours we spent happily pickling at their workshop was some of the most fruitful {pun intended} time I’ve spent in culinary education. For the first hour or so we learned about different types of preserving, the nature of fermentation, basic rules to live by to avoid flimsy {overcooked}, blue {iodized salt} or botulism-infected {low-acidity} pickles {all disappointing failures, the last of which is deadly and should be reserved as ammo for your enemies}. Do not be afraid, in the end we came away feeling confident that with great ingredients, a few basic kitchen tools and some spicy creativity, we were all destined to be pickling pros ready for market.  I would, however, suggest taking a class as you venture into the new world of pickling to absorb some of these basic guidelines — and hey, have a fun experience along the way.

Sweet! {and sour} what did you make?! Alas, we pickled baby carrots {purple, white and orange varieties}, beets {red, yellow and candied}, and a mixed garden which included carrots, beets, romanesco cauliflower and anything else we felt like jamming in the jar {lemon slices, fennel, red onion, jalepenos, etc.} producing a beautiful variety of colors and shapes.

Pickling ProcessSo in an effort to spread the good food love, I’ve included one of the recipes we learned below. Get as creative as you’d like with adding different spices, cutting carrot shapes {sticks or rounds} and veggie varieties, but please people, don’t mess with the vinegar:water ratio {follow the recipe, live to tell the story}. Let’s get pickled!

I live in SF: Take a Class at Happy Girl {here}
I live in NYC: Take a Class with Leda Meredith {here} 

Spicy Carrots {aka Spicy Rabbit}

Recipe for pint jars:
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 sprig of thyme
1-2 clices of jalapenos on bottom and top of jar
Several pounds of carrots to fill number of jars desired.

Vinegar solution:
8 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
12 cups water
1/4 cup sea salt
2 tablespoons honey

  1. Bring a large stock pot with a jar rack {if you have one} to a rolling boil {want to reach 200 degrees}. If you don’t have a jarring rack to submerge your jars, you can put rocks on the bottom of the pot so your jars are not directly on the bottom where they could crack and use tongs to submerge and remove jars.
  2. Scrub clean, but don’t peel carrots. Remove green top and any roots or bad spots. Slice the carrots so that they are the same height as the jars you are using {or if cutting rounds, cut each the same thickness}.
  3. Slice the jalapenos in 1/4-inch thick rounds and start by adding 1-2 in the bottom of each jar {depending on how spicy they are}. Add all your spices to the bottom of the jar.
  4. While packing the jars heat up the vinegar solution to a rolling boil.
  5. Pack the carrots in the jars with the thyme displayed on the side of the jar. Finish off the top with more jalapenos.
  6. Pour the hot liquid brining solution into the jars up to the fill line {where the jar curves at the top}.
  7. Using one hand, place the lid on top and turn just until the jar starts to turn with the lid. This will ensure it’s not too tight and will allow air to release in the hot water bath. You don’t want the lid to be on tight at this point.
  8. Process each jar in the hot water bath for 15 minutes. The water temperature should be 200 degrees.
  9. Remove immediately with jar tongs or water/heat resistant gloves and tighten lid slightly.
  10. Store in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks to finish pickling.

Pickles Pickles Everywhere
NYC Best: I’m In Love with Jacob’s Pickle
Do This: Take an Underground Sidetour to Get You Through the January Blues
18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau

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