A Jarful of Flavor: Pickles From Around the World

15 Oct 2015

Initially invented for the practical reason of storing food for the winter, over time they have become the ideal snack to serve with drinks or to take the edge off hunger. Pickles are found all over the world, and there is no question that homemade have the best flavor. So even though the supermarket shelves are full of industrial versions, it’s easy to find recipes for making your own at home. Here are some suggestions of traditional pickles from around the globe. 


Starting with Italy, one of country’s best-known classics is the flavor-packed giardiniera. The mix of vegetables changes depending on the season, but the traditional blend contains carrot, celery, cauliflower, onions, peppers and gherkins.


In Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia and across the Balkans and the Middle East in general, torshi are very common, a mix of chili peppers, garlic, eggplant, beets and other vegetables pickled in salt, vinegar and herbs. The name derives from the Persian torsh, meaning “acidic.” In France you’ll find cornichons, tiny cucumbers picked before they are fully ripe and preserved in vinegar with a mix of flavorings like tarragon, onion, garlic, dill and cloves. The Dutch ingelegde gele komkommer is an Ark of Taste product, prepared with an ancient variety of cucumber at risk of extinction. The pickled yellow cucumbers belong to the centuries-old tradition of pickles made by Jewish picklers in Amsterdam.


Straight from Japan comes pickled ginger. The most common version, thin slices in a solution of vinegar, water and sugar, is called gari and is used by the Japanese to cleanse the palate between courses. The country is also home to kyuri asazuke, very easy to prepare: cucumbers cut into thin slices, lightly salted and flavored with sugar and rice vinegar. The best-known pickle in Southeast Asia is achaar, made from pieces of mango left to dry then jarred with spices and vinegar. The same recipe can be found in South Africa and Mauritius, where it is often served with rice dishes and seasoned with local spices. In Korea we find jangajji, prepared with garlic, daikon radish, cucumber, chili leaves, muskmelon, perilla, local herbs and spices and vinegar.


In the Americas and Oceania the situation is complicated, with many recipes often coming from the traditions of the home countries of the colonizers and immigrants who have arrived over the centuries. The United States even has a National Pickle Day, in November. Among the most typical there are chow-chow and pickled beet eggs. Chow-chow is found all over the country, with many variations, but the relish is generally based on cabbage, peppers, onion, garlic, carrot, peas, asparagus and tomatoes. Pickled eggs are traditionally found in pubs and bars, but the Pennsylvania Dutch recipe adds beets to the recipe, giving the eggs a rich pink color. Encurtidos or curtidos are very common in Latin America, prepared with cabbage, onion, carrot, lemon, oregano, salt and vinegar. The Mexican variation calls only for carrots, onions and peppers. In Bolivia and Peru, escabeche and ceviches are typical of the local cuisine. There are variations found all over Latin American, such as the escabeche made using scraps left over from pig butchering (trotters, ears and parts of the intestine), the version with chicken, normally with onions, carrots and locoto peppers, and others with vegetables or fish (found primarily in Cuba).


Now is the time to pick the last of the summer vegetables and get pickling for the winter!

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