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Pickled Shallots

I’ve been fascinated with pickles, like these pickled shallots, since I lived and cooked in Japan. There, pickles are an exciting and crucial element of so many meals. Pickling is a traditional and natural method of preservation that captures the season and lengthens the life of ingredients that are available for only a short time. But the way we use pickles at Gramercy Tavern is hardly old-fashioned. They work their way into the composition of numerous dishes, where we use them to add important and unexpected hits of acidity.

Pickling allows us to be thrifty, to use parts of plants that are often discarded. Take Swiss chard stems. How many of those have you thrown away? But pickled (see variation below), they add wonderful color, crunch, and acidity to a dish.

Here’s our basic method for quick refrigerator pickles. This pickled shallot recipe illustrates how easy it is. Sure, each ingredient benefits from its own personalized seasonings (carrots take well to ginger and fennel seeds, turnips to saffron and coriander, Swiss chard stems to beets for color). But learning this ratio is a good place to start: 3 parts rice vinegar, 1 part water, 1 part sugar, and a pinch salt. The technique is always the same: Boil the brine and pour it over the ingredient to be pickled. When this process becomes familiar to you, it’s easy to combine many different spices and herbs to develop different flavors. Most of these pickles are ready in 6 hours or less. Packed into a jar and kept in the refrigerator, they’ll stay bright and crunchy for up to a month.–Michael Anthony

LC Instant Gratification Note

As far as pickles are concerned, these pickled shallots are pretty instant in terms of gratification, seeing as they take just 6 hours or so of pickling time as opposed to several weeks. But if you just can’t wait for your fix, we’ve got an even simpler pickle recipe, one that takes mere minutes. You’re welcome.

Pickled Shallots Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 6 H
  • Makes about 1 pint

Ingredients

  • 5 shallots
  • 3/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions

  • 1. Halve each shallot lengthwise and pull apart the layers to form petals. You should have about 2 cups. Place the shallots in a medium bowl.
  • 2. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour the pickling liquid over the shallots and cover them with a plate to keep them submerged. [Editor’s Note: The shallots may not be completely submerged, but that’s okay.] Let cool to room temperature.
  • 3. Cover the bowl (as well as the plate) with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight. Transfer the pickles and liquid to a container, cover, and refrigerate for up to several weeks.

Variations

  • Pickled Rhubarb
  • Follow the Pickled Shallots recipe above, substituting 2 cups chopped rhubarb (think 2-inch pieces) for the shallots and adding 1/2 tablespoon peeled, minced ginger to the bowl with the rhubarb. Makes about 1 pint.
  • Pickled Swiss Chard Stems
  • Follow the Pickled Shallots recipe above, substituting the stems from 3 bunches Swiss chard cut into thin pieces (about 1 1/2 cups) for the shallots and adding 1 small red beet, peeled and quartered, to the bowl with the stems. Remove the beet (which gives a lovely color to the stems) before transferring the pickles to a container.
  • Pickled Ramps
  • Follow the Pickled Shallots recipe above, substituting 5 cups ramp bulbs—that is to say, the curved end along with the white stems (lop off the green leafy part and reserve it for another use)—for the shallots and using 1 1/2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar, 1/2 cup cold water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns. Makes 1 quart (which may seem like a lot when you read this, but it won’t seem like a lot when you’re struck by a ramp craving long after the season has ended).
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