Sweet Rhubarb and Watermelon Pickles

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Just in time to enjoy the summer’s bounty, I bring you a great pickling recipe from my new book, Salt: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen, which hits the shelves on Sept 6. I love these sweet fruity pickles as a balancing accompaniment to salty charcuterie dishes, or as a tart, balancing feature to super-sweet desserts. Also, I like them right out of the jar, as I stand in front of the fridge.   You can make the two separately, but I like the essence of summer they evoke together. The charred spices add a layer of sophistication that powdered dry spices simply can’t.

Ingredients

4 cups rhubarb, cleaned and cut into 2-inch lengths

4 cups of the white meat of the watermelon rind (Use a potato peeler to remove the tough green skin)

1 cup water

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt—try Sal de Mara, Murray River, Panngasinan, or Japanese Shio

1 soft Mexican cinnamon stick

3-4 star anise

Method

  1. Combine rhubarb and watermelon rind in decorative jars, or plastic containers with fitted lids.
  1. In a small saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
  1. Using tongs, hold the cinnamon sticks and star anise over an open flame, until they ignite. Allow to burn for a few seconds, until charred, then drop them into the pickling liquid. Pour the liquid—spices and all—over the rhubarb and watermelon. Let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1 day. The texture stays crisp for about a week. After a while, when you find they are too soft, add them into your favorite relish, chow chow, or chutney recipe.

Variations

Fennel – Sliced raw fennel bulb makes an equally enticing pickle using this recipe. I add the chopped fennel fronds to the mix as well.

Carrot – Try this same recipe with slices, or long julienne shreds of carrot. Add some ginger into the brine for fun. And why not try it with rainbow carrots. Yellow and orange together make a bold statement. Purple carrots bleed their color onto the others during curing, so soak them in a separate container.

Radish – Standard radishes, with red skin and white meat, turn a lovely shade of pink in this brine.

Quickest Cucumber Pickles

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ICYMI, my new book, Salt: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen comes out in just a few weeks. In honor of this momentous event, and because we are in the height of the summer growing season, I thought I’d offer up a couple excerpts that you can use right now. First up, Quick Cucumber Pickles.

If you have a green thumb, you might be experiencing a sudden abundance of cucumbers right about now. These easy pickles are a crisp and salty accompaniment to sandwiches, Asian noodles, barbecue meats, grilled fish, or your standard hot dog. Best of all, they really are quick. Lickety-split!

Ingredients

3-4 pickling cucumbers, cleaned and sliced

1 red onion, sliced

1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt – try French or Arabian Fleur de Sel, Japanese Shio, Korean Sogum, or any one the great smoked salts that are available, such as Pacific Northwest Alder Wood Salt, or Hawaiian Guava Wood Salt.

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

  1. Combine cucumbers, onion, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Toss to coat, then refrigerate for 1 hour, tossing every 15 minutes to ensure even curing.
  1. Rinse off the salt, then soak the cucumber and onions in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain, then toss together with dill and olive oil. Serve well chilled. If you like your quick pickles a bit more tangy, finish with a teaspoon of rice vinegar or lemon juice.
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