Monday, October 17, 2011

Food: Picklepuss

One may be confused by my blog.  Was I not, just a few days ago, saying I was going to be eating more healthy foods?  Why then all the pickles?

Weighing cucumber slices.

It's true that modern, pre-processed commercial pickles can be problematic.  Commercial picklers add all kinds of additives to make them crisp and bright.  Their source veggies are of questionable quality.  You have to worry about sodium content, sugars, and any pesticides on the veggies.  However, even commercial pickles can have beneficial effects.  The pickled vegetable is usually high in fiber, which is good for the digestive tract.  Vinegar, often used in the pickling process, is a good source of magnesium, and has been shown to boost the body's fat-burning metabolism.

The cucumber, a favorite among American picklers, is not the most nutritious vegetable you could be pickling.  However, with proper recipes, well-chosen organic produce that's free of pesticides, and a variety of vegetables, you can have nutritious, guilt-free pickles in your pantry.

Bread and Butter pickles, with a few jars of dill pickles peeking out in the back.

Take the turnip.  Tiny little root vegetable with a copious, leafy top.  Their raw flavor and texture is not unlike a radish crossed with a carrot.  Pickled with a little cumin, and they are delicious and nutritious.  You can also blanch and freeze (or dare I say... pickle? Pickled greens = delicious) the tops for a very healthy serving of greens.

Turnip roots, quartered and sliced, being brined in salt water prior to being rinsed, and pickled.

Right now I'm loving a new canning cookbook I bought for the Kindle I will soon own (I have a Kindle Fire on pre-order, but there's a reader app for PCs and other devices like Android).  It's called "Canning for a New Generation" and it's split up by seasons, so whatever time of year you find yourself with a bumper crop of something, it's a great place to start.  Her choices are a bit limited though, so if you find yourself with, say, a bushel of Okra your neighbor gave you, you're going to have to find "The Ball Blue Book of Home Preserving" or "The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving".  The first is out of print, which is a shame, because it was a more no-nonsense, comprehensive list of fruits and vegetables and how to preserve them the same way your grandmother did.  The "Complete" book has been updated to be more modern, and has recipes that are more... how do I say this?  More cosmopolitan.  Still a very good resource, and easier to get a hold of.

The healthiest, most nutritious pickled foods, however, are some of the Japanese pickles that are out there.  My next pickling session, I am definitely going to be getting something like a Tsukemono cookbook, full of healthful Japanese pickling recipes.

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