Okla-homemade Summer Pickles
When the Oklahoma summer temperatures begin to rise, food that is cool and crisp is what I crave. Tangy pickles made with the season’s freshest produce are the perfect addition to most every summer meal. Barbecue, grilled meat, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and even cheese and charcuterie plates all beg for a side of pickles. The bounty and variety of summer produce allow for endless pickling possibilities, guaranteeing that you never tire of your favorite summer side.
The pickling technique is a simple one and, once mastered, the flavor and produce combinations are boundless. A vinegar/water ratio is where most recipes begin. I have played with several in the recipes below, but a general rule of thumb is to include equal parts or more vinegar to water. I love the tang of vinegar so I will commonly choose a vinegar-heavy ratio. There are countless vinegars available, but the ones I have the most success with are white vinegar, cider vinegar and rice wine vinegar. All three have subtle flavor distinctions, but none is too overpowering. The true flavor of the pickled item still shines through.
A pickling spice mix is the second component in the process. Seeds work best, as they do not alter the color of the brine and provide just enough flavor. Mustard seeds, coriander seeds, salt, peppercorns, fennel seeds, caraway seeds and dill seeds are some of my favorites. Add a little sugar if you are looking to achieve a sweeter, bread-and-butter-like pickle.
Finally, I like to throw in a few extras: peeled garlic cloves, bay leaves, fresh dill, cinnamon sticks, and dried or fresh chilies for a little heat.
My perfect pickle is tangy with a touch of sweetness and a little heat. Sweet Heat Cucumbers are just that. The mild heat balances the sweetness and they are the perfect all-purpose pickle. Cinnamon Coffee Beets are roasted with shallots prior to the addition of the brine. The coffee beans and cinnamon stick hold up against the strong flavor of the beets, creating a unique flavor profile. Cider Carrots are simple, slightly sweet and best eaten cold from the fridge. Pickled Okra is the quintessential Oklahoma pickle. This versatile recipe is sure to please every okra lover and is the perfect way to preserve it at its peak. Swap out the okra for green beans or asparagus for a twist on the traditional.
My favorite combinations are in the recipes below. Four different vegetables with a variety of brines, pickling spices and add ins. They are delicious and distinctive as is, but also provide a map for further experimentation. Take advantage of the bounty of Oklahoma produce and begin your own summer pickling project.
Too busy to pickle? Here are some local favorites:
Scissortail Provisions is a funky and cool family fermenting and pickling in small batches. You can find them at Tulsa Farmers’ Market or ScissortailProvisions.com
Jan’s Pickles’ Spicy Sweet Garlic Dills are the inspiration for my Sweet Heat Cucumbers. Visit janspickles.com to find locations or to purchase online.