Winter root vegetables are beautiful to look at, all the colors of the rainbow. Right now, I’m still excited to cook with them, but I know that by March I’ll be tired of rutabagas and beets!
The holidays are over and we’re settling in to that long stretch of winter that holds both magnificent beauty and light, and everyday slushy, icy annoyances. Seed catalogues are piling up in a little stack on my desk, and my mind drifts to spring projects. In the meantime, I have undertaken my annual clean-out of drawers and shelves and all the little places that have become cluttered over the past couple months. I’ll be sweeping up balsam needles for a while yet (where do they hide?), and trying to find places for Christmas gifts.
Out with the holidays
The refrigerator needed a major clean-out of all the little dregs of holiday meals past, tucked away just case someone wanted that little bit of tapenade, that forgotten cheese, the single scallion or jalapeño. Once I finished the purge, my refrigerator looked really bare! A pretty jar of pickled vegetables would liven things up!
I think of our local farm’s winter offerings as the staples in my pantry: potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, purple and pink radishes, parsnips, celeriac, rutabagas, and of course onions. They work beautifully together and they are the backbone of winter soups, stews, casseroles, and more side dishes than I can count. They keep well in my crisper drawer or larder, and are always ready to be of service.
Let’s jazz them up
One way to add some vibrancy to these earthy treasures is to pickle them! I think of making pickles as a summer activity, so creating pickles in January brings a feeling of the warmer season to my kitchen. This quick pickle recipe can be modified in a hundred ways depending on not just the veggies you choose, but the herbs, spices, and vinegars as well. Use a variety of vegetables, or you can just use beets if you like!
These pickles are not processed so they must be stored in the refrigerator. They will last for weeks, if they don’t get devoured, so make a big batch.
Make it yours
For this jar, I used celeriac, carrots, purple onion, watermelon radish, and golden beets. I also used apple cider vinegar. The radishes turned the brine a pretty light pink, which is something to think about. If you use dark red beets, your vegetables will be a deep ruby red, which you might or might not want. To season the brine, I used fennel seed and pink peppercorns, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, and a fresh bay leaf. I also added my lonely jalapeño and scallion, plus a little garlic for more flavor.
Winter Root Refrigerator Pickles
1 1/2 pounds root vegetables of choice
1 onion, sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 or 2 scallions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
4 tsp. coarse salt
4 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fennel seeds
1 tbsp. each black and pink peppercorns
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Choose your jar for the pickles and put it through the dishwasher.
Prep your vegetables: slice raw vegetables to a consistent thickness. Slice the onion thinly, mince the pepper, scallion, and garlic. If your beets and carrots are extremely hard, steam them for a minute or two just to soften them.
Pack the vegetables and bay leaf into the jar.
In a saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar, fennel seeds, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes. Bring almost to the boil, and pour over the vegetables.
Let cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator.
Best to wait a day or two to eat so all the flavors meld.
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