Pickles Part 2

In the first part of of my pickling series I wrote about the basics of pickling. This was meant as a stepping stone for you. It is important to get comfortable with the basics before you start stepping outside of your comfort zone.

One of the most important parts of cooking is to understand that there are many little details that all add up to creating a great recipe or dish. Balance of flavors is one and texture is another. The look of the dish is almost as import as the flavor profile and this step should not be overlooked.

In this blog I am going to share a few different recipes to help you with getting started. The brine will always stay the same but and the changes will occur in the actual pickling jars.

  • Basic Pickling Brine
  • Apple cider vinegar (1 part)
  • water (2 parts)
  • Kosher pickling salt (enough so it is almost too salty for your palette)
  • Sugar (to balance the salt levels and add another layer to your pickles)
  • Pickling spice (a few tablespoons for every 2 liters of brine)
  • Whole Lemon
  • garlic (a few cloves for every few liters)
  • Fresh thyme sprigs
  • fresh rosemary sprigs

Bring this brine to a simmer and allow your ingredients to steep like a tea. While you are preparing the brine you can now begin to process your pickles.

It is best to make very large batches of this and have it ready for future use. If you decide to do pickling down the road then all you will have to do is simply bring the brine to a simmer.

Pickled Turnips

A perfect item for a chicken sandwich or burger. These can be found in Shawarma’s and can really lift up any sandwich with a unique bite and flavor.

  • Basic brine
  • slice the radish with as uniformly as possible with either a knife of mandolin
  • In the pickle jars prior to pouring the liquid on add a few slices of raw beets and whole garlic cloves
  • The beets will bleed into the turnips and the garlic will give them a sharper flavor.once the liquid is covering the pickles and the lid is on, give them a little shake to help the beets bleed into the whole jar. You can even store them upside down to help this process but make sure you have the lid sealed tightly.
  • These pickles will be ready after about 4 days or when they have turned a beautiful rose color

Pickled Fennel

a great addition to almost anything with fish such as fish and chips, salmon steaks, smoke salmon on a bagel & cream cheese or even an accompaniment to a cheese platter.

  • Basic brine
  • a few extra teaspoons of sugar in each jar
  • a few sprigs of fresh dill in each jar
  • a sprinkle of mustard seeds in each jar
  • shaved fennel
  • pour hot brine until jars are full
  • seal jars and put in fridge

These pickles will be ready after 2 days

pickled eggplant

a nice addition to a cold cut sandwich, stir-fry, or even a finishing element to a soup or salad.

  • Basic brine
  • thinly sliced Japanese eggplant
  • a few ounces of good quality soy sauce to each jar
  • a few ounces of sesame oil to each jar
  • a few tablespoons of sugar to each jar
  • a drizzle of fish sauce to each jar (optional)
  • pour the simmering brine over top
  • seal
  • store in fridge

These pickles will be ready after about 2-3 days

Pickled Cherries

a nice addition to a cocktail over the holidays, in a fresh salad, or morning pancakes or crepes

  • Basic brine
  • 1 cup red wine in each jar
  • 1 ounce triple sec or grande marnier to each jar
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar to each jar
  • 1 slice of lemon
  • 1 slice of orange
  • pour hot brine over top
  • seal and store in the fridge

a little tip to the cherries is to leave the pits in so they keep a nice shape prior to using them. If not then they tend to get small and wrinkly and are not as crunchy or ascetically appealing.

These pickles will be ready after 1 week

Nana’s Pickles

These pickles stay crunchy as long as you keep them nice and cool. They are amazing on burgers, diced up into a tartar sauce, on a charcuterie platter, or simply a late night snack when passing the kitchen.

For this last recipe, I am going to share with you a family cucumber pickle recipe that holds a close place to mine and my families hearts. These are what started the whole obsession with both food and pickles with me way back when I was a little boy.

There is only one other pickle that I have been able to buy at a grocery store that come slightly close to these pickles and they are Claussen Kosher Dill Pickles. They are kept in the chilled section of your grocery store.

For this recipe you will not require a brine at all.

I will give you a recipe based on a 1 liter pickling jar.

  • 1 tablespoon of pickling spice and put it in the jar
  • 1 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • fill will pickling cucumbers
  • repeat the same process as with the pickling spice, garlic, dill seeds, and fresh dill at the top of the jar.
  • cover with only water and seal the lids tightly
  • store in a very cool area if not in the refrigerator

These pickles will take somewhere between 1 and 2 weeks to be ready

One of the things that a professional cook does that makes their lives easier is to prepare everything at once. The fastest way to achieve this by doing all of the same steps at one time and then moving on and doing all of the next steps and so on.

Here is how I would go about doing multiple varieties of pickles at once. set out all of your jars

  • get a large batch of brine on the go.
  • prepare all of your vegetables, that is washing cutting etc.
  • fill your jars with the ingredients while the brine is heating up and make each one the way you want to.
  • clean up your mess and have the jars sitting beside the brine ready to go.
  • when the brine is finally simmering, all you have to do is simply use a ladle or small sauce pot to pour the hot brine over each one.
  • cover your jars and you are basically done.
  • One little note to watch out for is that if your knife skills are not fast and the brine begins to simmer prior to you finishing, make sure to check it before you use it. The more it reduces when simmering, the more intense the brine becomes such as too much salt or too acidic.
  • If you find that it has gotten too salty or too acidic then simply add a little more water until it is where you want it

Feel free to post questions or comments at any time for me to help you through your pickling adventures. If you want help with anything related to pickling I am always here for you.

I will be posting videos in the near future to help you, so stay tuned

Roasted Pork Rack with Roasted Vegetables

Serves 4-6

Budget $35

With the fall season on the horizon, I am very excited as it is my favorite time of the year. The reason fall is my favorite time of year is because I get to harvest the vegetables from my garden and prepare them in dishes. Braised meats & roasts are among the top foods that really strike a cord in my chef soul. The smell of a beautiful roast in the oven and how it fills our homes with such intoxicating aromas is such a simple yet beautiful pleasure.

Today I found a beautiful pork rack at my local butcher and thought what a perfect time to pair it with some of the items I have harvested from my garden such as purple beets, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, & carrots.

I am going to walk you through the process and give you simple tips on how to adjust the “recipe” to fit both your palette and your budget.

First off a whole pork rack can be one of the more expensive cuts of the pig. This doesn’t mean that you have to follow me to exactly with each step. I am simply going to give you a guideline and allow your inner chef to decide where to take it. Remember I am going to teach you about how I develop a meal from a professional chef’s perceptive as well as how to cook without using any exact recipes.

If you are on a tighter budget you can use a different cut of pork for this such as pork shoulder or butt.

I want to start with some simple ways to put your dishes together with a simple rule to follow. Whatever protein you decide to use, try thinking about its natural habitat and then choose ingredients from there to start putting the pieces together.

Lets use wild game like Moose for example. What do you find in its natural habitat? Being in British Columbia the Moose in my neighborhood live among things like fruits such as apples & pears, nuts, berries, grains, & mushrooms. So I would start to put the elements together based on this guideline and then work from there.

This will be much easier than trying to put moose with items from a warmer more tropical climate like mango’s and coconuts. I am not saying that you cannot pair these items, but that they will be more difficult to have success. Once you start with a good foundation then you can start to step outside of the box to create more elaborate creations. Stay within your comfort zone and work from there and before you know it, you will be coming up with some more exotic dishes.

Getting back to the Pork rack, there are a few directions you can go, but I have chosen to roast mine on a bed of vegetables. I love doing this because as the meat roasts and releases its juices, all of the vegetables will absorb them and begin to caramelize with a very intense robust flavor. This can work for roasted chicken very well, which I recommend you try at least once this season.

I like to add as much natural flavor as possible and it’s the little things that will make the difference with a good dish and a great dish. Do not try to overpower your dish with excessive spices and other flavors. It’s all about bringing the best out of each main ingredient and maximizing their flavor.

I am going to do one of my favorite precooking steps which is a brine.

The brine can be whatever you want and a simple way to break this down is to make a tea by steeping the flavor profile you want and then chilling it prior to submerging your meat in it. For this I will use garlic, onions, thyme, rosemary and my brine solution.

The brine solution can be just water and your aromatics or you can get a little more creative and add salt, sugar, and acid as your base. By adding a brine you will add more flavor to the meat which will be absorbed and give you a juicier bite.

People often forget about citrus or vinegar’s as an equally important seasoning step as salt and pepper but believe me they are, especially when dealing with richer more fatty foods. The acid will help balance the flavor of everything and intensify your meat.

The length of time the meat sits in the brine should vary depending on the size and cut. A steak, chop, or chicken breast should not brine for more than an hour or two. Where a larger cut such as a whole chicken, pork rack, or turkey can go for up to 24 hours. This also depends on the acidity levels as well. If your brine is more on the acidic side of things you could end up with a chewy sour final product if you leave it too long.

A good way to make the best brine is to taste it and have a nice finish on your tongue with strong notes of salt, acid, and sugar. If they are well balanced then you should have no problem.

For this particular recipe I used a large 5 bone rack with its fat cap in place. The actual cooking time for this was about 1.5 hours at 325 F. The key is to not rush the process and let the meat cook slowly. Low and slow will give you a more tender juicier rack. Should you find that you do not have the time, then it is best for you to choose a different dish so that you can avoid being disappointed. Lets say you do not have 2 hours to make this dish then simply cut out steaks then either pan sear or grill them.

Just because I gave you a time and temp for your dish does not meant you have to follow this in a strict manner. Just remember that the internal temperature should be 145 F and the perfect temperature to get there is between 325 and 350.

  • RECIPE
  • 1 pork rack
  • 2 small beets
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1 small rutabaga
  • 1 small celery root
  • 1 small onion
  • 5 whole garlic cloves
  • 2 small Yukon gold potatoes
  • RUB
  • Dijon mustard
  • olive oil
  • 1 sprig rosemary (chopped finely)
  • 1 sprig thyme (chopped finely)

METHOD:

Cut all of the vegetables so that they are uniform. I am sure you have heard this term before. For those of you who do not know, this is where all of the ingredients are cut to the same size and shape. The reasoning behind this is so that everything cooks at the same time. Smaller cuts will end up burning in order for the larger cuts to reach their doneness. On the flip side, larger cuts will not cook through if you finish when the smaller cuts are done and you will be left with under cooked unpleasant bites.

Mix all of your vegetables together and season them with salt, pepper, olive oil and preferably some hard herbs such as thyme or rosemary and lay them out on a baking tray.

Mix the oil, herbs and Dijon mustard in a mixing bowl until mixed thoroughly.

Score the fat cap in a crisscross pattern to allow the meat to cook more evenly and season well with salt and pepper. Once you have done this, you want to slather the pork in your Dijon rub and place it on top of the vegetables.

Preheat your oven to 450 F and cook the meat for roughly 25 minutes at this temp and then drop the heat to 325 – 350 F and finish your pork at this temperature. The reason behind this is to give a crispier outer layer. Crispy savory, and aromatic crust combined with a sweet soft and very tender inner layer will make each bite so good that your legs will go weak.

Remember this little bit of advice and do not get discouraged with each dish. What makes a great athlete amazing at what they do is the practice and repetition of the skills that they are acquiring. The same goes for cooks in all aspects. There is a reason why professional chefs are good at what they do and even more so there is a reason why our grandparents make such amazing food. They have done it over and over for decades and each time they prepare the dish, they fine tune one element to tighten up the perfection.

I personally love root vegetables which is why i chose to go this route, but that does not mean you have to. You can use only one vegetable if that is what your budget is restricted to. Just remember that whatever it is that you use in this dish that it is a heartier vegetable so that it holds up to the cooking process and serves a purpose. In this case the vegetables purpose is to act as a flavor catching roasting rack, so choose something according.

One more very key aspect that I want to to talk about is what to do with the meat once it comes out of the oven.

A big problem that people seem to have or have a hard time resisting, is letting the meat rest. It should almost rest for as long as it cooks. Now that seems silly when you think that a pork rack has cooked for nearly 1.5 hours. I should say that you don’t have to let it rest for that long but there is a reason for letting it rest and ways to do it properly.

The basic breakdown of why to let the meat rest is the cooking process and heat locks up the tissue so that it becomes tough and the resting process allows the meat to relax and soften up. This is why you often see a lot of juices and blood pooling up after something has been sitting on a plate for so long. Think of it this way, one you will get a more tender bite if you let it rest, and two you will be able to use the juices released in your sauce.

To prevent the meat and vegetables from getting cold is to cover with aluminum foil and let it rest. When I created this dish I let the pork rest for nearly 20 minutes and the final outcome with perfect.

The final element of this is the sauce. A sauce should been used as something to highlight your dish and not act as the main attraction.

One little trick I often use when developing a dish is the same thing that an interior decorator would use when choosing colors for their work. For example a decorator is trying to choose a color to paint the walls in a room so they may look at a carpet and pick out a faint color in it and use the color of the walls to pull it out.

Use the same concept when cooking and this sauce will be a perfect little introductory sample of what you can do with this concept.

I will use the crust as a base because of its strong Dijon charactaristics. Dijon has some friends that like to join it in recipes so lets talk about that. Dijon likes, honey or maple syrup, goat cheese, horseradish, sweet white wines and garlic.

Let’s build our sauce now!

Pour the pan drippings into a small sauce pot and bring it to a simmer. drizzle a little bit of honey and whisk it in followed by some white wine and bring back to a simmer. Add a little bit of Dijon mustard to it and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Play with the balance of flavors until it is where you want it and all that is left to do is spoon a few tablespoons over the plated pork and you are ready to go.

Thank you so much for spending time with me for my first of many blogs and I appreciate your comments, concerns or questions.

ABOUT CHEF JAMES RYAN

I have been a chef for over 28 years and have worked in all areas of the food and beverage industry from fast food to fine dining and everything in between. When I was younger my focus was on learning as much technique as possible and creating a new unique dish. Although that is still present in my chef soul, I get a lot more gratification from sharing and teaching and being able to see the joy in the people I am helping. Things that seem so basic and part of my daily routine are sometimes mind blowing to the nonprofessional cook. My goal is to talk about hot topics that are out there in the food world and I will try to work them out to help you make better decisions with what you buy and what you eat. Most importantly I want to share my love for food and cooking and why it has kept me completely focused for nearly 30 years. I will let you get inside my mind and how I look at both recipes and use ingredients to create dishes of your own. Put down the recipes and begin to cook with your heart and you will be surprised of the inner chef within yourself. I will let you in the mind of a chef and show you my perspective when I go about cooking and creating dishes. How I pair ingredients with others and bring out the true balanced flavors to make your own creations stand out. Using recipes can be boring and mundane and often be off-putting to people wanting to cook. The recipe that you want to recreate can be so confusing to read and follow that it scares you away, when in actuality the dish can be prepared in a much simpler way with a simple shift in your thought process and how you approach the whole dish. We are going to talk about how to maximize the ingredients that you are using to bring out the best in them no matter what it is that you are preparing. In saying that I will show multiple techniques to get the same result and let you the reader, choose which path you want to take. I will break down the pros and cons of each method which will also allow you to understand what you are dealing with Often times it is best to start at the end with how you want the final product to look and then work backwards to help you get a better vision on what it is that you are trying to achieve the with final product. Knowing what the final dish will be will help you along the way like mental guidelines. With the financial crunch out there, people are looking to eat on a tight budget. Students out there or people leaving their parents’ home for the first time and are learning about how to survive on as little money as possible will benefit from following me. Breaking down product and ingredient comparison will help you get your shopping done in the right way, all while still eating a healthy diet that is balanced. I believe that after being a chef for so long that it is important to constantly be evolving and learning about new recipes, techniques and how to use ingredients is something we all have to share and hopefully I can bring people together in discussions to help each other out.