I like snow peas but don’t love them enough to eat an entire dish of them. They’re great for accenting stir-fries and soups, in which a little goes a long way. However, when you buy them at Chinese markets – where they tend to be very fresh and well priced -- you usually have to purchase them in one-pound bags. Unless you plan to serve snow peas every day of the week, it’s hard to get through the entire bag.
I am guilty of leaving my Chinese market snow peas to linger for too long in the fridge. Inevitably, the over-the-hill pods are dumped into our greencycle bin on trash night. Enter pickled snow peas – the first recipe I happened to have turned to in The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant and Kate Leahy. The title of the book, which I’d received as a review copy, was perfect for my circumstance: I needed to preserve the snow peas for a later date!
Pickling snow peas aren’t a go-to Asian use of the vegetable but I was game. I had a bought an ample bag of snow peas from Ranch 99 and had a scant pound sitting around.
I had to do some math with the original recipe, which called for 2 1/2 pounds of snow peas. Additionally, I discovered that I was out of caraway seeds for the pickling spices. I used cumin instead and decided to tilt the spices toward India a little further by using football-shaped coriander seeds, a sweet and citrusy version of their round brethren. A little turmeric helped to keep the snow peas from turning too sickly green, which is what they naturally want to do.
Without champagne vinegar on hand, I chose unseasoned rice vinegar, which has a similar mild acidity. However, I ended up adding more sugar than my original estimate because the flavor was a bit too tart for my taste buds.
The thing with The Preservation Kitchen’s recipes is that they’re clearly presented in weight, volume and percentage measurements. If you tweak things like I did, it was simply a matter of using a calculator to figure out the right amount of ingredients to use. You can guesstimate your adaptation with a fair amount of assurance! A book that inspires confident cooking is a huge boon to the cook.
After sitting overnight in the fridge (I prefer the Asian no-canning approach to pickling vegetables), the crisp tangy snow peas were ready to eat or keep for a while. What I found surprising was that the snow peas kept their snow pea-ness. They seem like a delicate vegetable but they retained their identity in the sea of brine and spice.
How to serve the pickled snow peas? The authors described their pickled snow peas as a perfect side for smoked or grilled meat. They also mentioned that pickled snow peas are great added to chicken salad or showered atop a green salad; they were great in a potato salad I made. I could see them with ribs seasoned with Asian flavors, grilled lemongrass pork, tandoori chicken (see the Asian Market Shopper for my recipe). They’d also be a partner for charcuterie or fried snacks – foods where you need some tang to cut the richness. For dinner, I chopped them up and mixed them into fried rice.
This is an easy pickle recipe that I hope you’ll try out. Next time I buy snow peas at the Chinese market, I'll know that I can use up the entire bag.
Pickled Snow Peas
Use more sugar if you prefer a moderately-sour pickle.
Yield: 1 quart
- 1 pound snow peas
- 3/4 teaspoon coriander seed
- 3/4 teaspoon brown mustard seed
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin or caraway seed
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 dried chile de arbol or other dried red pepper, torn into several pieces
- 1 3/4 cups unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Scant 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- Wash and drain the snow peas. Snap off the ends of each snow pea, peeling and discarding the stringy fiber as you work. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, toast the coriander, mustard, cumin, fennel, peppercorns, and chile over medium-low heat, until very fragrant; a tiny bit of smoking is okay. Put into a 4 to 6-cup jar. Add the snow peas.
- Return the saucepan to the stove. Add the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and turmeric. Bring to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat, wait for the bubbling to subside, then pour over the snow peas. Use a spoon, spatula, or ladle to gently push the snow peas down so that they’ll be submerged in the brine. They should be eventually covered.
- Let cool completely, partially covered, at room temperature. Cap and refrigerate overnight before eating.
Adapted from: The Preservation Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2012) by Paul Virant and Kate Leahy.
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