Pressed for Pickles

Pickles: I like them salty, sometimes sour, spicy, or sweet. And then, there is simple.

I have had mixed results making pickles. I’ve tried brining cucumbers and green tomatoes, attempting to replicate the jars of Polish green tomatoes Mrs. Supsak, the mother of one of my father’s co-workers, used to give us. I have yet to find the right recipe. 

Pickled Italian red radish

But I am more successful with pressed pickles, Japanese-style. It’s a quick pickle that involves sliced vegetables, salt, and pressure so the moisture is released.

Until recently I placed salted vegetables between two plates and weighed them down with something heavy from the kitchen. But then our friend Howard Waxman, who owns Essene Market and Café in Philadelphia sent us the P. Carrot pickle press from Japan a couple of weeks ago. The directions are in Japanese, but it’s easy to figure out how to use it. The top has a screwing

mechanism that pushes the press over the vegetables. The salt and pressure (the vegetables are pressed rather than squashed) do the work. Nothing like having the right tool for the job. Thanks Howard.

I’ve used the press twice so far. The first time, I used a little too much salt; the second was just right when I measured a half-teaspoon of sea salt for a loose cup of sliced cucumbers, red Italian radishes and minced red onion.

Italian red radishes from my garden

So what can you press into pickles? Cucumber, of course, radish, Napa cabbage, turnip, summer squashes. Add slivered carrots or a bit of onion to the mix. Now that my garden has kicked in I will experiment. I plan to try a little ginger, and since we live in the Southwest, a few flakes of red pepper.

My favorite vegetable to pickle appears at the local market in the fall — a white turnip with a magenta center. The turnips are transformed into a purplish-pink pickle.

Press the vegetables overnight or make them in the morning. Once the pickles are done, remove them from the press. Serve and refrigerate what’s left. They should be eaten within a few days. Don’t worry. That’s what usually happens.