Feb 1, 2015

Tangy-Sweet PICCALILLI

Old label from a jar of Piccalilli
in 1867 England
To me, pickling vegetables is a lot of fun, and really not a lot of work. It's a way to enjoy homegrown vegetables all year without being concerned about added chemicals in processed foods, and being able to control the taste of the pickles you make, spicy, sweet, savory or sour. Ever notice how serving something pickled or acidic brings out the flavors of foods? 

Thanks to Japanese/Hawaiians, pickled condiments, known collectively as tsukemono, are served with most meals here in Hawaii. The most common is gari, thinly sliced pickled ginger, often served as a palate cleanser alongside sushi, or kyurizuke, delicious savory/salty and crunchy cucumber pickles. You will find a lot of pickled vegetable recipes on tastinghawaii.com. Recipes for pickled kimchi, garlic, ginger, onions, beets, okra, tomatoes, even starfruit, etc. Just click on the "Recipe Index" tab at the top of this page and scroll down to "Pickled Things".

I sometimes find green tomatoes at the Moloka'i farmer's market this time of year, and usually pickle them in several different ways. One way is to make a relish called "Piccalilli". This relish is actually a true British classic condiment with recipes dating back to 1758. I sometimes wonder if Captain James Cook had a jar of Piccalilli aboard his ship when he first discovered Hawaii in 1778, probably not, because if he had, and shared them with the native Hawaiians, his trip probably wouldn't have ended so badly.

I grew up in the Southern United States where Piccalilli is called "Chowchow". In the South, people still have big gardens and love to can vegetables, and nothing goes to waste. Chowchow is made with various combinations of summertime garden vegetables. 
Piccalilli (Chowchow)
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My recipe, shown below, consists of chopped green tomatoes, sweet bell pepper, onion and crisp green apple. Other recipes add cabbage, or cucumber, green beans, cauliflower, plus a little crushed red pepper to heat things up. The vegetables are then brined in salt overnight and boiled with vinegar, spices like turmeric, and light brown or white sugar. Everybody's recipe will be slightly different, from vegetables to spices. The end result is usually a tangy-sweet pickle relish that can be served with deli lunches of cold meats and cheeses, or with grilled chicken, or even served on top of hamburgers, hot dogs, or corn bread. 

In Hawaii, Piccalilli is wonderful served as a condiment alongside grilled huli huli chicken, lau lau, Spam musubi, in a mahi-mahi sandwich, or with local style pasteles or lumpia. It's an ono thing, and well worth the trouble making it. See you at farmer's market!

Green Tomato Piccalilli (Chowchow)
Ingredients:
4 quarts green tomatoes, cut 1/4-inch dice (make sure they are totally green tomatoes)
4 sweet red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, removing seeds
1 quart chopped sweet Maui onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (yellow onion works also)
1 cup kosher salt
1 quart Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon turmeric
3 cups cider vinegar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup whole mixed pickling spices wrapped in Cheesecloth and tied with kitchen string
6, 1-quart (32 oz) wide-mouth canning jars with lids

Procedure:
San Marzano Green Tomatoes
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Put prepared vegetables (green tomatoes, bell pepper, yellow onion) in a large stainless steel or ceramic bowl. Mix in 1 cup of kosher salt and cover with ice water.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, drain vegetables, discarding the liquid. Place drained vegetables (do not rinse), in a large stainless steel pot. Add chopped apples, turmeric, vinegar and sugar. Tie pickling spices in a piece of cheesecloth and add to pot. Bring pickles to a boil and simmer 20 minutes. Remove spice bag and ladle hot relish immediately into hot sterilized wide-mouth canning jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rim, seal. Put jars in a large pot of boiling water, to cover, for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed. Store for at least 2 weeks in a cool, dark place before serving, to allow the flavors to meld; store unopened for up to 6 months. Refrigerate after opening. Makes 6 quarts.

Note: Some people like to grate their vegetables even smaller, using a box grater or a food processor. Personally I like it a little chunkier. In case you forgot, 1 quart = 4 cups, but you knew that!
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