It’s month four of my personal veggie challenge, in which I am learning to appreciate vegetables by getting better acquainted with least one of them every month. Somehow my challenge guidelines morphed into an alphabet thing, so here’s what we’ve had so far:
A is for Artichoke (Artichoke Soup)
B is for Bok Choy (Soba Noodle Salad with Bok Choy)
C is for Celery (Celery Citrus Salad)
This month’s task was brought to me by the letter “D.” There aren’t a lot of vegetables that begin with the fourth letter of the alphabet! (Remember, I’m trying to use the root letter, not the letter assigned to individual varieties — for example, “dinosaur kale” would be a “K” veggie.) According to the list I’ve been using, my choices this month were two: daikon or dandelion.
First, is dandelion a vegetable? Seems like it’s really a flowering plant — a.k.a. weed — that can be used like a vegetable, especially its greens and roots. There are some amazing things to do with dandelion. I was looking at the list of recipes here and here, plus this post from Ramblings of a Gypsy Nomad that includes dandelion jam, dandelion fritters, and dandelion calzone! Also, Hank at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook wants to remind you to Eat Your Lawn, which sounds like a pretty good idea to me.
But now I’m digressing, because you don’t see any dandelions in this post, right? I am going to see what I can do about finding some dandelions before the rest of the weeds in my neighborhood get whacked, but my job this month was daikon — an Asian radish that looks like a gigantic white carrot — because we were all out of pickles at our house.
I’ve never used daikon for anything before, but plenty of other people have made pickles like these. (I hope you will bear with me if these pickles are a big yawn for you. I was excited!) I went right to the Tigress to suss out a recipe round-up from last year’s Can Jam, and there I found many versions from which to choose. (Were you a can jammer last year? Have you been back to use any of the monthly round-up lists? Each one is a tremendous resource for canning recipes.)
Daikon carrot pickles are usually based on a classic Vietnamese quick pickle relish called “do chua.” My version is a spicy hybrid, inspired primarily by Marisa at Food in Jars and Nina at Put Up or Shut Up! In this little bowl, there’s plenty of fresh ginger — if you know how to grate ginger without grating your thumb along with it, will you please share? — plus red chile flakes, black peppercorn, and lots of coriander . . .
I was going to make just a small batch, but then I thought: Why? We don’t want to run out of pickles again. I filled some small jars for gifts, too. They’re pretty. They’re also kinda smelly. I was warned and now you are, too — pickled daikon smells cooked-cabbage-funky, but the taste will put you past that.
Spicy Daikon Carrot Pickles
2 pounds daikon, sliced into thin rounds
2 pounds carrots, sliced into thin rounds
3 cups white vinegar (5% acidity to ensure safety)
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1. Sterilize your jars.
2. Wash, peel, and slice the daikon and carrots. (I used a mandoline slicer for the first time ever. What took me so long?)
3. Peel and grate the ginger and combine with the rest of the spices in a small bowl.
4. In a large, nonreactive sauce pot (an 8-quart pot would be a good size), combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and spices. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the daikon and carrots, turn off the heat, and stir well to combine the ingredients. (At this point, I had a moment where I thought I had way too many veggies and not enough brine, but then everything settled down. The ratio of veggies to liquid turned out to be just right.)
5. Pack the veggies into the sterilized jars and cover with brine, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Use a small silicone spatula or chopstick to remove air bubbles from the jar. Wipe the rims and add the lids.
6. Process 10 minutes in a water bath canner.
Yields about 5 pints o’ pickles
Next month will be about the letter “E,” and it should be interesting because the heavy hitter (almost the only hitter) on the “E” list is a vegetable I don’t like one bit. Can’t wait.