Five Great Pickles for National Pickle Day

Fried Pickles
Flickr user ehfisher

In honor of National Pickle Day, The Counter Custom Burgers slashed prices on their Fried Dill Pickle Chips to a dollar this Sunday, November 14 (go while you can!). There are two OC locations: Irvine and Newport Beach. You can also get fried pickle chips at Beachwood BBQ, Lucille's BBQ, Johnny Reb's, Hooter's and Beach Pit BBQ, though there are no special deals at those restaurants.

When Americans think pickle, we usually think of cucumbers but there's an entire world of pickled foods to try today and throughout the year. Here's five ideas to get your pickle on.

1. Kosher Pickle Making Class with Rabbi Pickle
Pickle barrel
Flickr user EssG

If your "kosher" dills have vinegar in the brine, they're not real kosher pickles. The real deal is a cucumber that fermented slowly in a salt brine with spices, garlic and fresh dill--nothing more. The longer the fermentation, the more sour it becomes. Half-sours are stil crisp and only slightly tart, full sours are saltier and have an effervescent fizz that tickles the tongue.

Rabbi Shmuel Marcus of the Chabad Lubavitch of Cypress teaches classes all over the world on pickle making and the pickle's role in Jewish society. Learn to make your own at his next OC class this December 15 at the Mission Viejo Chabad. This event is open to women only, but his next class in July 2011 is open to everyone. Cost is $20 in advance, or $25 at the door.

Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo 24041 Marguerite Pkwy., Mission Viejo, (949) 770-1270; chabadofmv.com.

2. Russian pickles
pickled tomatoes
Flickr user yomi955

Next time the voice in your head (what voice in my head?) convinces you your ass is freezing off on the naked walk to your morning shower, imagine the same schlep in the long, brutally cold winters of Russia. In the days before refrigeration, any crops they grew in the summer needed to last through months of frigid weather. So if could be pickled, the babushkas did. Traditional pickles in countless varieties imported from all over Eastern Europe are available locally at Russian Gourmet and Moscow Deli.

Russian Gourmet 22722 Lambert Ste., Ste. 1701, Lake Forest, (949) 600-8222; russiangourmet.org. Moscow Deli, 3015 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 546-3354;moscowdeli.com

3. Kimchi
kimchee
Flickr user Carrie Marie

In a method similar to traditional sauerkraut-making, Koreans preserve all kinds of vegetables (napa cabbage, cucumbers and daikon radish are the three most common) with salt, garlic, dried hot chili powder, and fermentation. The ancient farmhouse method was to keep them covered in ceramic crocks, and store them buried under the ground to last the winter without freezing into giant kimchi-cicles.

Kimchis are an indispensable component in the assortment of panchan that accompany a Korean meal, as well as your fusion taco from the luxe-lonchera. Local Korean supermarket chains H Mart, Freshia Market, Hannam and Zion Market carry many brands produced in SoCal, but you can also buy direct from factories in OC's Koreatown like the following:
 
Seoul Do Soon Yi Kimchi, 9972 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 638-5424.

4. Tsukemono
tsukemono
Flickr user toyohara

Like Korean panchan, the traditional Japanese meal includes several small side plates of pickled dishes collectively called tsukemono (tsoo kay moh noh). The most common kind are lightly vinegared for several hours, in which it's called asazuke (ah-sah zookay). Any authentic Japanese restaurant will serve you small dishes of cucumber or daikon tsukemono to cleanse the palate, so no specific restaurant recommendation on this.

But if you're up for the challenge, try to find this in a restaurant: a pickle fermented in a paste of rice bran called nukamiso (noo-kah miso) that is itself fermenting with a live lactobacillus culture. Rice bran is toasted, mixed with sea salt and water until it has a miso-like texture, hence nuka miso. It's flavored with kombu and maybe a red chili pepper, and given time to ferment with wild yeast and lactobacillus culture. The nukamiso, like sourdough bread starter, is stirred and fed by hand every day to keep it aerated and healthy. Vegetables like cucumbers and daikon are left in the nukamiso for several hours to several weeks. Nukazuke (noo-kuh zoo-kay) is an time-consuming ancient pickling method that's still made in Japanese homes, but almost never in a restaurant kitchen. I know of no local restaurant that makes their own nukazuke. If you know, share in the comments!

5. Pickled fish
rollmops
Flickr user ehfisher

For years, we've been telling you about the many ceviche styles from Mexico, Peru, and even Vietnam we're blessed with in our fair county. In some places, you can't swing a huachinango without hitting a mariscos joint.

But there's not nearly as many places to pick up European-style pickled fish like rollmops, matjes, or pickled herring in wine or cream. I would give one of my paired organs to have a legit appetizing store here, but until Russ and Daughters opens a West coast store, I can only direct you to Benjie's, our county's longstanding go-to kosher-style deli and restaurant.

Benjie's New York Deli, 1828 N. Tustin Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 541-6263; benjiesdeli.com.

Herring are cured in vinegar not only to preserve it, but to soften the hundreds of fine, hair-like bones thus making them easier to eat. If you're ok with jarred pickled herring there's no wider selection locally than at the international market Wholesome Choice.

18040 Culver Dr. Irvine. (949) 551- 4111
5755 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills. (714) 779- 7000.
wholesomechoice.com

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