If you use The Joy of Pickling or you have traveled in the Middle East, you may be familiar with pink pickled vegetables, colored by either a bit of beet or some sliced red cabbage. Although the pink turnip and cauliflower pickles in my book are made with vinegar, fermented pickles are also popular in the Middle East. In fact, as one of my readers told me a couple of years ago, when he lived in Egypt the local pickles were always brined, with no added vinegar. On a counter in every kitchen, batch after batch of pickles would be were fermented in a jar whose brine was seldom thrown out, although I would guess that salt was added from time to time.
Were those Egyptian pickles pink? I’m not sure whether I asked, but adding beet or red cabbage does the trick whether you’re using vinegar or fermenting in brine. With this in mind, I made brined pink cauliflower to share at a recent preserving fair in Albany, Oregon. Here is the recipe:
Brine-Pickled Pink Cauliflower
1 pound cauliflower florets
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 Mediterranean bay leaf
1 small beet, or a piece of a larger beet, cut into chunks
2 small dried hot peppers, slit lengthwise
1½ tablespoons pickling salt
1 quart water
In a 2-quart jar, mix the cauliflower, caraway, garlic, bay, beet, and hot peppers. Dissolve the pickling salt in the water, and pour it over the cauliflower. Weight the cauliflower, cover the jar loosely, and let it stand at room temperature.
After about five to six days, when the cauliflower is as sour as you like, cap the jar and store it in the refrigerator. Or leave it on the kitchen counter, if you prefer, but expect the cauliflower to get more and more sour and eventually to soften somewhat.
I’m not sure whether I like the flavor of this pickle better than that of the vinegared version; brining seems to bring out more of the cauliflower’s bitterness. But I love the firm texture and lewd color of the fermented florets.
You can certainly vary the aromatics to suit your taste. Dill—already forming seed heads in my garden!—might be an excellent addition or alternative to the caraway.