Bliss in the Brine: Four Recipes for Pickles Inspired by Global Flavors

The summer has been rough on our garden this year, yielding very little from swiftly withering stalks and vines, but one plant that courageously stuck it out was our cucumber. With the small bounty it gave us, we’ve been experimenting with recipes for pickles with flavors from around the globe. Even once the cold weather sets in and the only cucumbers we get come from the store, it’s always handy to have pickling recipes on hand; sometimes, I have more cucumbers (or other vegetables, for that matter) in the refrigerator than I actually end up being able to use, and pickling them is a great way to prevent waste.

Indian-style Pickles

These pickles were inspired by the dynamic flavors of spicy masalas and toasty fenugreek.

Makes enough to fill one 24 oz. mason jar

Ingredients:

1 cup water

½ cup white vinegar

¼ tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. salt

4 Kirby cucumbers, cut into ¼” rounds

½ tsp. cumin seeds

½ tsp. coriander seeds

3-4 garlic cloves, rough chopped

2 Kashmiri peppers (or other dried pepper)

3 green cardamom pods

¼ tsp. cardamom seeds

½ tsp. Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

2 curry leaves (NOT curry powder; may sub bay leaves)

½ tsp. mustard seeds

Instructions: Bring water, vinegar, salt, and turmeric just to a boil in a small sauce pot, letting the salt and turmeric dissolve, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, toast coriander and cumin seeds in a small skillet. Add cumin, coriander, peppers, cardamom seeds and pods, kasoori methi, curry leaves, mustard seeds, and cucumbers to mason jar. Then pour hot liquid mixture into jar, close and shake. Let cool before placing the jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours (preferably 48). 

New England-style Pickles

Although New England isn’t known for being daring with its spices and seasonings, its cuisine does have some distinctive flavors that I wanted to channel into a pickle to serve alongside my smoky seafood chowder. Black pepper, parsley, and sage are common New England seasonings, along with Caribbean imports like nutmeg. But I also wanted to incorporate other flavors that would be familiar to a New Englander, like the molasses and Worcestershire that add depth, sweetness, and umami to their famous Boston baked beans.

Makes enough to fill one 24 oz. mason jar

Ingredients:

1 cup water

½ cup white vinegar

1 tsp. salt

4 Kirby cucumbers, cut into ¼” rounds

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tsp. black peppercorns

8 sage leaves, slightly crushed

4 whole cloves

3 TBSP molasses

1 TBSP. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. dry mustard

Instructions: Bring water, vinegar, and salt just to a boil in a small sauce pot, letting the salt dissolve, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add garlic, peppercorns, sage, cloves, molasses, Worcestershire, mustard, and cucumbers to mason jar. Then pour hot liquid mixture into jar, close and shake. Let cool before placing the jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours (preferably 48). 

Bigos (Polish-spiced) Pickles

When my sister and her husband visited his family over in Poland, they brought back a bunch of spice mixes for me so that I could taste the flavors of the region. One of these was bigos, the mix of allspice, juniper berries, marjoram, and other herbs that gives the traditional hunter’s stew of the same name its distinctive flavor.

Makes enough to fill one small mason jar

Ingredients:

1 Kirby cucumbers, cut into ¼” rounds

5 TBSP water

2-1/2 TBSP white vinegar

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. sugar

1-1/2 tsp. bigos spice mix

1 garlic clove, rough chopped

Instructions: Bring water, vinegar, sugar, and salt just to a boil in a small sauce pot, letting the salt dissolve, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add spice mix, garlic, and cucumbers to mason jar. Then pour hot liquid mixture into jar, close and shake. Let cool before placing the jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours (preferably 48). 

Berbere Pickles

For my birthday one year, my fiancé took me to a great little spice shop and I picked out some treasures that I couldn’t normally get at home. One of these was berbere, a mix of chilies, ginger, fenugreek, and other spices that is central to Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines. It is fiery but, at the same time, complex and comforting, and I’ve looked for all sorts of ways to incorporate it into my own cooking. This recipe doesn’t use a premade berbere, but instead draws inspiration from its ingredients in order to produce a pickle that’s spicy but balanced.

Makes enough to fill one small mason jar

Ingredients:

5 TBSP water

2-1/2 TBSP apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika

A dash of cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

1 Kirby cucumber, cut into ¼” rounds

1 garlic clove, rough chopped

¼ tsp. coriander seeds

3 allspice berries (or dash of allspice)

4 cubeb berries (or add peppercorns and a dash of nutmeg)

1/8 tsp. cardamom seeds (or about 10 seeds)

¼ tsp. fenugreek seeds

2 cloves

small slice of fresh ginger (about ¼” round)

¼” slice of onion

2 finger chilis, cut in half (or Thai red chili, chilies de arbol)

Instructions: Bring water, vinegar, paprika, cinnamon, and salt just to a boil in a small sauce pot, letting the salt dissolve, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add garlic, coriander, allspice, cubeb, cardamom, fenugreek, cloves, ginger, onion, chilis, and cucumbers to mason jar. Then pour hot liquid mixture into jar, close and shake. Let cool before placing the jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours (preferably 48). 

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