Food, wine, travel, music
As a new system is being installed in the Irish Examiner, I don’t have a PDF yet for this survey published 20 June 2014.
Pickles make for handy summer salads. As a means of preserving vegetables for a long time, pickling is useful and means that that jar hidden at the back of the cupboard may not be out of date at all. One product I surveyed has a sell by date of 2017. However, once opened pickled foods should be eaten within a week.
They can be added to a picnic basket and served with cold meats, or in a sandwich. I have given some ideas below and more on my blog rozcrowley.com. For this survey I looked for some new products and found interesting ones, along with a few classics. I left out the huge range of olives which are the ultimate pickled food which fresh can taste bitter until pickled in brine. Some are cured in oil, and some are rubbed with salt to preserve them. Most vegetables are pickled in vinegar, or in brine or both. Some are pickled in a vinaigrette dressing, so appear more oily than acidic. There is also plenty of good pickled beetroot available. We found little difference in quality of brands, but all of then were perfectly acceptable. If you want them to be less acidic, slice or dice whole ones. I like to dice them finely and add to a simple green salad, to mayonnaise or to cooked chickpeas or on the side with goats cheese.
As we are not comparing like with like this week, we are not giving scores, but went through a wide range of products to come up with our Top 8. As the liquid weights varied considerably, we have given drained weights unless otherwise stated.
The Real Olive pickled garlic, 200g €4
Four heads of garlic pickled in sherry vinegar are just a little less hard than fresh garlic. The garlic flavour is nicely muted by the sherry vinegar and there are no harsh vinegar tastes, but a sweetness which is delicious. Slice thinly and use in salads. Add chopped at the last minute to stir-fries.
Healthy You ginger seaweed salad, 175g €4/€4.50
The benefits of seaweed are well documented with iron and iodine amongst a long list of minerals as well as a large number of vitamins. It’s not easy to find a palatable seaweed product but this one has a lovely zing of ginger, some chopped olives, soy sauce and a little malt vinegar. The texture of the shredded kelp has a decent chew, but is not leathery, as is often the case with seaweeds. Use in green salads to add texture and flavour or on the side with meats. Available Coal Quay market, Quay Co-op, Good Fish Co and others at http://www.seaweedsalads.ie
The Cultured Food Co Raw sauerkraut ruby red, 650g €5.50
Fermented foods contain natural compounds which are said to have cancer-fighting properties, with compounds even greater in number than in live yoghurt. Vinegar is not used to make sauerkraut. Instead it is salted and allowed to ferment naturally. This saurkraut is particularly tasty with the addition of cumin seeds and its red colour is more attractive than white cabbage. In health food shops and West Cork Foods, English Market, Cork.
Marks & Spencer grilled artichokes, 260g €4.49
Less expensive artichokes often have their hard, chewy outer leaves left on, so while these seem expensive they are better value. Artichokes are good for liver and gall-bladder problems, arthritis and rheumatism and here they have added benefits of olive oil, vinegar, parsley, lemon juice and salt, though perhaps need to be drained of this dressing for those with gall bladder conditions. Serve with pates, roast meats, as part of an antipasti collection. This weight includes 23% oil.
Aldi Bramwells Gherkins, 370g .85c
Terrific value, these pickled cucumbers (in France called cornichons) are typical of what can be found in large supermarkets. Chopped into salads, added to mayonnaise instead of capers, to sandwiches, with patés and terrines, to stir fries, they are a useful store-cupboard ingredient. Like many pickled vegetables they should be used within a few weeks once opened, so watch that large ‘bargain’ jars are used quickly.
Fosters Pickled Walnuts, 210g €9.89
In a dark blend of malt vinegar and malt extract with some water, sugar and salt, these are more familiar to British diners in the days of Brideshead Revisited (they were mentioned in the novel). Some tasters were not quite sure what to make of them. The walnuts have been pickled in their fresh, green, soft state and are larger than the dried version. They end up dark and soft, yet quite firm. They are delicious served with blue cheese, terrines, cold ham and beef. Good to serve as a surprise. From The Good Food Shop, English Market, Cork. Available on Amazon.
Chef Mixed Pickles, 200g €2.29
A mix of cauliflower florets, silverskin onions and sliced gherkins in vinegar, this is a mouth puckering combination. While quite acidic, the taste is clean and the textures definite. This will cut through the fat of pork, so good on the side with cold roasted meats. An old-fashioned pickle. Widely available.