Spicy-Sweet Refrigerator Pickles – Attempt I

June 26, 2011

See Pretty Good Refrigerator Pickles for a more successful attempt!

After seeing all the Japanese and Chinese turnips as well as some gorgeous multi-colored radishes at the Boulder Farmers’ Market over the past few weeks, I thought it would be fun to make some refrigerator pickles. I had tried a recipe for Indian-spiced cucumber pickles a year ago, and was surprised at how easy it actually is to make them. These aren’t the kind of pickles that require boiling and canning – they are meant to be eaten more quickly than those, but I think they would easily be good for a week in the fridge.

Chinese turnips and colorful radishes

I wanted to do something on the spicy-sweet side, and what resulted wasn’t bad by any means, but I do wish that I hadn’t chosen to use radishes in the mix. On the one hand, because I did use them, and left the skin on, all of the pickles I made are variations of a gorgeous pink color. But they all have a not-quite-mild-enough hint of that peppery radish taste. They aren’t hot in the way I intended — radish hot, yes, chile hot, no. Nor were they quite as crisp as I would have liked.

Fortunately, they are good enough that it is definitely worth another go at them, with some adjustments based on this first round. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I don’t regard cooking efforts that don’t turn out as well as I like as failures, but think of them more as experiments which allow me to learn some things, and create a better end result in the future. (If I didn’t take this view, it would be too easy to either make the same 5 dishes every week, or just do sandwiches or frozen dinners every night!)

The following is the recipe I concocted, without any of the adjustments that I plan to try next time.

Spicy-Sweet Refrigerator Pickles – Attempt I

5 cups Chinese turnips and radishes (I used a 3:2 ratio)
1+1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon chips
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp salt

Peel the turnips (leave the radishes unpeeled).  Thinly slice both turnips and radishes.  Pack into a deep glass bowl (vinegar can react with unlined metals) that you will be able to cover tightly and put in the refrigerator.  It’s ideal be able to fit small plate in the bowl to weigh down the vegetables so the pickling liquid covers them.

Combine all other ingredients in a saucepan or dutch oven (glass, ceramic, or something lined with teflon, silverstone or enamel – again, due to the vinegar), and bring to a boil.  Stir to dissolve sugar, and boil for 1 minute. Pour over vegetables, cover with plate to ensure they are submerged in the liquid, and let cool to room temperature, about 40-50 minutes. Cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight.

Spicy-Sweet Pickles

Next time I plan to use milder tasting vegetables, see what I can do to increase the crispness, and figure out how to get a little more chile heat. I was pleased with the allspice/clove/cinnamon taste, so I plan to keep that. Look for an update in a couple weeks.


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