Thursday, October 11, 2012

Atsara | Pickled Vegetables

I am blessed with a childhood full of memories in the farm. During harvest season, we always have an over supply of anything. Papsi plants whatever he can in any means and ways possible, maximizing the hectare of land assigned to him. Name it and Papsi have it, I think he had planted all possible vegetables. I think I got his genes in just appreciating what the land can gave back to us. And whenever we had this extra, he always preserved those through making atsara. What I love most were the pickled shallots (sibuyas tagalog) and red onions rejected because of its size and quality: sweet, spicy perfect for breakfast of fried fish or talong.

And so during one of the Sunday Carbon Market visit, we bought some vegetables in season. You know it's in season when everyone is selling the same thing and you can get it at almost a bargain price. We bought a kilo of daikon radish, a kilo of cucumber, carrots, as well as our staple: green mangoes. And of course the best thing to preserve them is the way Papsi does the old way of pickling it!

Pickling according to is a way of preserving food by anearobic fermentation in brine to produce lactic acid, or marinating and storing the food in an acetic acid, like vinegar, and the resulting food is called pickles. Pickling can preserve foods for months.

This exercise is very simple to do even a grader can do it in a breeze. All we need is to prepare the brine (or the pickling solution), pour it in a jar with vegetables, let it stand for days and there you have it. Critical here is the pickling solution, as this will determine the final product. For the pickling solution, we will use the following proportion, but you can increase and decrease the vinegar and sugar content according to your taste, but please do understand the important roles of vinegar and sugar in the preservation process. 

For the brine, combine the following ingredients and bring to a boil until all sugar is dissolved.

1 cup distilled vinegar
½ cup water
¼ cup white sugar
1 tsp coarse salt

You can pour this brine in a wide-mouthed jar with fresh vegetables of your choice. Make sure the vegetables are totally submerged in the solution, cover it tightly and store it in a cool dark place or in the refrigerator. You can serve it chilled after a day or two

Now for the vegetables, you can either combine sliced strips of radish, cucumber and carrots. Slice the cucumber lengthwise and remove the seeds. Slice into long spears then cut into 3-inch pieces. Cut the carrots into the same sized pieces as the cucumber as well as the radish. Wash and pat them dry before packing into the prepared jars. 

Pickling is the best way to preserve the food when they are in abundance. And pickles is best served as an appetizer as the sweet-sour taste prepares our palate for a full course meal. It is best paired with fried and grilled dishes as we Filipinos are fond of, and of course the best accompaniment for oily and fatty foods like lechon.

This is also a good time to utilize those unused bottles from jams and spreads that have been hiding in your pantry. Like what I did, I gave those as gifts. Who doesn't want to receive such present that can tickle your taste buds?

And the king of them all, the pickled mangoes! My housemate can finish a jar of this in one sitting. 

Happy pickling!
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