I've always thought of pickling and preserving as one of those things that you get into when you really, really like to cook. There's something about it that only a die-hard cook is willing to do - the long wait until gratification, the hundreds of peaches you have to peel or tomatoes you have to blanch, fiddling with glass jars and boiling water. But of course, preserving is one of those things good cooks have to love, because it's all about capturing ingredients at the peak of their season.
So, I was surprised when Paul, who here-to-for has always ignored my jam-making sessions while happily eating the results, has been on a pickling kick. First we made makdous (pickled eggplants), which thanks to a bit of an equipment malfunction failed miserably. Undeterred, Paul then expressed a desire to make Lebanese pickled turnips, which I had never made before.
You may not recognize them as turnips, since they're bright pink, but if you've ever eaten a spread of mezze, these were probably on there. Found throughout the Levant, the turnips are pickled in a simple vinegar solution, with some beets in the bottom of the jar to turn them bright pink. The pickling couldn't be simpler, combine vinegar and salt, pour over turnips. Ta-da, one week later you have pickles.
Paul added in some slices of hot pepper to give the pickles an extra kick, which worked really nicely. In the future, I would be sure to add some more beet slices (about 3-4 per jar) to make sure the pickles come out really pink. These are great, not only as a tangy side on a mezze table, but added to sandwiches and wraps too.
Lebanese-Style Pickled Turnips
Cut the turnips while your brine mixture cools, it's important that the brine mixture be cold so that it doesn't cook the turnips. Adapted from David Leibovitz and Aromas of Aleppo.
3 cups water
1/3 cup coarse white salt, such as kosher salt or sea salt
1 bay leaf
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2 pounds (1 kg) turnips, peeled and cut into batons
1 small beet, peeled and sliced
a few slices of a chili pepper with seeds (we used a banana pepper)
equipment: clean glass jars, 16-32 oz works well
1. Heat one cup of water, the salt, and the bay leaf over medium heat, until the salt is dissolved. Let the mixture cool completely. Combine the salt mixture with the remaining two cups water and the vinegar.
2. Place a few beet slices and 1-2 chili slices in the bottom of each jar. Place the turnip batons into the jars. Pour the brine mixture over top to cover. Seal the jars and place in a cool dry place for one week to cure.
3. At this point your pickles are ready to eat. If you plan to store them longer than one week place them in the fridge - leaving them out longer at room temperture will cause your pickles to lose their crunch.