Chefs, cookbook authors, and home cooks are all lavishing attention on vegetables these days. Gone is the time when they were a steamed-in-the-microwave afterthought and they now compete for the spotlight with food-cult favourites like fried chicken and cupcakes.
And if there is a bacon of the vegetable world it is the pickled vegetable. The range that stretches from cornichons to dill pickles and through mustard pickles and pickled onions all pack a bracing and delicious combination of sweet, salty, and sour flavours.
Many of the world’s favourite preserved, pickled vegetables hail from the interesting places where two cultures met. A prime example is piccalilli (the traditional bright yellow mustard pickle) that draws influences from both India and Britain.
There’s another British connection when it comes to pickled onions; with an Italian accent added in the case where balsamic vinegar is used in the brine.
As well as characteristic tartness, these flavour bundles can also add a sharp burst of heat to the plate. Guindillas peppers are an example of small, moderately hot peppers that are packed in brine and bring both tartness and the burn of 0.
Pickles as Ingredient
Just about any time a recipe calls for pearl onions that’s a possible application for their pickled onion version. If you’re setting out to make boeuf bourguignon or a steak and ale pie, there are enough tricky steps without having to peel a whole bag of pearl onions. Pickled onions already have that step taken care of and in these applications they add an excellent tart contrast to the rich meat and its sauce.
The western European culinary tradition leans strongly on the idea of a palette of complementary flavours. Bread, cheese, and meat all play in harmony, but when a dollop of mustard pickle or a few pickled onions are added to a plate, they stand out as the soloist – sweet, sour, and colourful all at once.
Many entries in the canon of classic cocktails wouldn’t be the same without a pickled garnish. The modern Gibson is distinguished from its Martini cousins by the addition of a pickled onion. Those Guindillas peppers would take a Bloody caesar to another level of delicious pickled spiciness.
Where to Buy These Pickled Vegetables
All of these garnish, ingredient, and cocktail essentials can be purchased directly from Qualifirst Foods at wholesale prices.
Pickled Baby Onions (Vilux) 370 ml: The ultimate pickled cocktail onion that also works as an ingredient in stews and pot pies.
Mustard Pickle Piccalilli Sauce (Tracklements) 300 g: Mustard pickle adds a blast of bright yellow colour to sandwiches and the traditional British ploughman’s lunch. Its sweet-tart balance is also a welcome addition to charcuterie boards and as an accompaniment for fried food.