4 PICKLES: (1) Black and Watermelon Radish, (2) Crispy Sunchoke, (3) Purple Snow Pea (4) and Rhubarb. Make a few up and serve them with the best crunchy and succulent Fried Chicken, (above) from New York City's Dirty Bird
4 PICKLES > FROM 1 PICKLE BRINE
This brine is flavorsome enough that you don't need to store these for weeks before eating, infact they're ready to eat straight away. The key is Pickling Salt. You might need to go to a specialty food store to find some. Iodized salt, Kosher salt, in my mind, won't really do the trick. The other thing to remember with pickles is that like soup, or stew, you'll need to build up a flavor base, but that's where the fun begins and you get to experiment.
THE BRINE: Put half a cup of Pickling Salt to 4 cups of Water in a bowl (or a few bowls if you're doing more than one type of pickle). Put into the bowl whatever you would like to pickle. (Rhubarb tends to bleed pink, so it's better in it's own bowl. Sunchokes need to be sliced coin size and Beans can go straight in whole) You need to leave them sit in the salty water for 4-6 hours. After letting your pickles sit, drain them and rinse well in water, drain again.
THE PICKLING LIQUID: In a heavy based saucepan add 1 and a third cup of Apple Cider Vinegar and two thirds cup of Water. That's your 2 cups. Now you can duplicate those 2 cups to fill up as many jars as you like. To every 2 cups add 5 tablespoons of Dark Brown Sugar if you're doing rhubarb or another condiment that needs extra sugar. If you are doing regular sliced Sunchokes, 3 tablespoons of Dark Brown Sugar will do just fine. Add a teaspoon of Pickling Salt regardless. Then heat up the apple cider vinegar, water, brown sugar and salt over the stove, on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Turn off your heat and set aside, that's your pickling liquid.
THE FLAVOR BASE: Into small clean 8 oz jars put your drained (cut or whole) pickles. Don't fill them up too high in the jar. Leave a good inch at the top. In front of you place several small bowls that contain the following:
—Whole Coriander Seeds
—Whole Fennel Seeds
—Whole Cumin Seeds
—Red Pepper or Chile Flakes
—Thin slivers of Fresh Ginger
—Thin slivers of Fresh Garlic
Now mix and match. Place half teaspoons of any or all of these to each of your pickles. Try Rhubarb with a half teaspoon of Coriander Seeds and Ginger, try Sunchokes with all of the ingredients here listed above. Try fresh Green Beans with a whole teaspoon of sliced Garlic and a touch of Chili Flakes. The combinations are endless and up to you. What about Lemongrass? Pink Peppercorns... sprigs of fresh Dill, or Whole Dill Seed, thin slivers of Horseradish Root? You could crush some Lemongrass or even add a stick of Cinnamon, or some Whole Cloves to the Rhubarb. Add the whole Pink Peppercorns to the Beans. What about some Wasabi Snow Peas? Experiment!
COMBINE THE TWO: When are you done experimenting with ingredients, pour the pickling liquid into jars containing pickles and screw the top on. Shake and refrigerate. I don't bother to sterilize anything or boil anything because quite frankly the pickles in my fridge usually get eaten up in a couple of weeks.
NOTE: You can pickle whatever you want. I usually go to the Farmer's Market and just pick up whatever's there. Admittedly in February, the market can be particularly bleak. But don't be afraid to try the ugly root vegetable. Give it a go! You'll be surprised at how easy it is. A tip for when you're experimenting; I'd avoid using any ground spices as they tend to make the liquid cloudy, so stick with whole elements.