One Fine Mixer: Fermented Lemon Brine

While making space in my overstuffed refrigerator last week, I chopped a last slice of brined lemon, tossed it into the bean soup bubbling on the stove, and began to tip the jar of brine into the sink. But I couldn’t resist the scent of that lemony liquid. If cucumber pickle brine can make a good cocktail ingredient, I thought, how much tastier a drink could you make with the salty, sour, bitter, tantalizingly aromatic brine of preserved lemons?

So I heated the brine to sterilize it, funneled it into a bottle, and stored the bottle in the liquor cabinet for Robert to find.

He couldn’t resist. That same day he invented his new favorite cocktail, the Vodka Lemon Pickletini. Here is his recipe:

2 2/3 ounces (1/3 cup) vodka
2 teaspoons brine from preserved lemons*

Combine the gin and lemon brine in a chilled cocktail glass, and stir.

The lemon brine, said Robert, “softens the alcoholic edge of the vodka, and the saltiness brings out a dimension of umami. The bitterness of the lemon oil fills out the taste, while the citrusy, slightly medicinal aroma excites the nose.”

You might decorate your glass with a sliver of brined lemon.

 

*Put whole fresh, thin-skinned, unwaxed lemons into a glass jar. Pour over the lemons brine made from one tablespoon fine salt to each cup of water. Weight the lemons, cover the jar loosely, and leave the jar at room temperature for about three weeks. Then close the jar tightly, and store it in the refrigerator.

Brined Turnips, Korean Style

 

A reader’s query reminded me that I hadn’t made turnip kimchi in a long, long time. I don’t know why not; it’s easy and quick to make, and everybody seems to like this pungent, garlicky pickle. So I made a batch, and it disappeared almost as soon as it was ready.

Here’s the recipe:

Sunmukimchi (Turnip Kimchi)

1 pound small turnips, peeled
1½ tablespoons pickling salt
1 to 2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
3 scallions, minced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1¼ cups water

 If the turnips are bigger than about 2 inches across, halve them lengthwise. Then slice them very thin crosswise. Put the slices into a bowl, and rub them with 1 tablespoon of the salt. Let them stand at room temperature for about 3 hours, occasionally turning them in their brine.

Drain and rinse the turnip slices, and then drain them again. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon salt, the pepper flakes, the scallions, the garlic, and the sugar. Mix well. Pack the mixture into a quart jar, and pour the water over. The turnips should be covered by about 1 inch. I haven’t found it necessary to weight the turnips; perhaps the garlic and pepper ward off spoilage organisms. If you’re worried, though, add a brine-filled plastic bag or other weight. Cap the jar loosely (unless you’re using a brine bag), and let the jar stand at room temperature.

After six to eight days, when the turnip slices are as sour as you like, cap the jar tightly. Store the jar in the refrigerator, where the kimchi should keep well for several weeks.

This reminds me: It’s time to plant turnips for a winter harvest!