Quick-Pickled Vegetable Salad and Brining Vegetables
These little veggies were served at the Seed Savers Conference dinner and have now been in my refrigerator for over two weeks….and they still look and taste fantastic! Once again I set myself up for the situation where I didn’t know exactly what I would be making (I kept the menu rather vague listing a ‘Carrot Vegetable Salad with Toasted Cumin”) but I knew it would involve lots of local vegetables and a light vinegar dressing, so I started experimenting ways to keep them looking good for more than one day.
Cucumbers and Zucchinis are on the watery end of the food spectrum and are notorious for looking deflated and unappetizing on any day other than the day you chop them. There wouldn’t be time to prep them on the day of service so I needed a way to preserve them.
Pre-brining them in saltwater. Yes!
Salt-brining vegetables is most often used as a preparation for fermentation when making kimchi but it can also help preserve veggies so they look cute and serve-able for days. A saltwater brine helps remove the excess water and infuses them with a mild salty flavor. It’s a common restaurant practice to store chopped vegetables in salted water when one needs to do piles of pre-prepping so they don’t dry out or discolor—foods like potatoes, yams, celery, cauliflower— and the salt permeates into the flesh providing flavor and prevents them from becoming soggy. But now saltwater brining the water-filled melon family (like cucumbers and zucchini) to extend their lifespan has become my favorite new procedure for salads.
Safety note—Salt brining for quick-pickling is relatively safe because everything stays in the refrigerator and you’re not trying to create a fermented product. If you are brining for fermentation be sure to read the salt ratio guidelines HERE.
This salad/relish took a few days to make because I had to produce 14 gallons and it’s mighty handy to prep ahead when facing that kind of quantity. The carrots are more strongly pickled because they are dense and could handle holding that flavor; they would provide the boldness, the ‘punch’ to the salad. They’re based on a recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned how much I love this book…so let me say it again…I love this book. She has a new version out, most of the favorites still included.
All the other vegetables were either blanched or brined then tossed in a light vinegar-honey mixture a day ahead to give them a mild quick-pickle flavor that mixed with the stronger punch of the carrots. I didn’t want full-on pickles, I wanted a refreshing salad for a hot day.
This salad was made adhering to the Taste and Adjust philosophy, I suggest you do the same.
Quick-Pickled Vegetable Salad
At least one day ahead, pickle the carrots or other dense vegetables.
3 cups Carrots, or other dense root vegetables
Blanch in boiling water 4-5 minutes to lightly cook them, then drain.
Heat just enough to dissolve the sugar/honey:
1 cup Water
1 cup Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon Sugar or Honey
1 Jalapeno, sliced
2 large cloves Garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds, whole
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
Pour the liquid into a non-reactive container with the carrots, etc. and store in the refrigerator for at least one day.
One day ahead brine the watery vegetables.
Slice into your preferred shape:
3 cups cucumbers, summer squash and/or zucchini
Stir to dissolve the salt then add the cucumbers/zucchinis:
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
Water—enough to cover the cucumbers/zucchini
Refrigerate in the saltwater 10-14 hours, then drain.
One day ahead prep the other veggies.
1 cup Green Beans
1 cup Broccoli or Cauliflower
1 cup Corn
1/2 cup Onion
Blanch in boiling water 30-60 seconds, then remove from the water. If you are using anything frozen (corn, beans) they do not need to be blanched.
Drain the salt-brined cucumbers/zucchinis.
Gently mix together in a bowl:
the drained Cucumbers and Zucchinis
the drained blanched Vegetables
the Pickled Carrots and their Cider Vinegar Dressing (remove the garlic and jalapeños)
1 teaspoon Sugar or Honey (or more if you like)
1/4 teaspoon Allspice
Taste and Adjust. It may need more sugar, cider vinegar, or salt depending on your tastes preferences.
Store refrigerated in a non-reactive container for at least 6 hours. Stir occasionally so the dressing soaks into all the vegetables.
Enjoy for many days!