The Jewish cookbook that I received for Christmas (ha) is coming in handy. Written by Noah and Rae Bernamoff, the Mile End Cookbook claims to redefine Jewish food just as the Brooklyn delicatessen of the same name has become a haven for those who crave a modern approach to traditional dishes. The gift-giver thought of me, he said, because of my propensity to pickle or otherwise preserve for the pantry all kinds of fresh and typically organic produce of whatever persuasion: fruits and vegetables for sure but also poultry, meat and fish. I might have to cook my way through this book, and there are a few recipes (like the Kummelweck Rolls of my childhood) that particularly beckon.
Off the bat, I liked how the authors make a large batch of generic vegetable pickling liquid that they store at room temperature for up to 2 months, dipping into it as needed for a particular dish. Seasonings are added according to the individual recipe. I am planning to make Finnan Haddie (poached smoked haddock) for New Year’s with pickled beets as an accompaniment. They make a great pair. The sweet-tart flavor of the earthy beets perfectly offsets the creamy smoky fish.
Although I made less of both the brine and the beets than the recipes called for, I maintained the proportions so that I could evaluate the results. Though next time I would diminish the amount of allspice in the beets, everything else was spot on. I made this with “Cylindra” beets from my garden. I happen to use the Diamond Crystal kosher salt that the Bernamoffs call for. If you use another brand, like Morton’s, google the conversion factor since the difference in grain size significantly alters the salt content.
Pickled Beets, adapted from the Mile End Cookbook
1½ lb red beets, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
1½ tsp whole allspice berries (or less to taste)
1 large bay leaf (the recipe called for fresh but I used dried)
4 sprigs of thyme
1½ tsp black peppercorns
Vegetable Pickling Liquid (see below I need about 5-6 cups)
Place the beets and seasonings in a saucepan and add enough pickling liquid to cover the ingredients by about 1 inch. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook over low heat until the beets are just fork-tender, 30-45 minutes. Let the beets cool completely before storing them in their brine in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will keep for about 6 months.
Mile End Cookbook’s Vegetable Pickling Brine
7 tbsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
5 tbsp sugar
1½ c plus 2 c water
1½ c cider vinegar
1½ c plus 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
Heat the salt, sugar and 1½ c water in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until thee salt and sugar crystals are fully dissolved and the liquid is clear. Remove from the heat and add the remaining water and the vinegar. Allow the brine to cool completely before storing in a covered container at room temperature, for up to 2 months.
Makes about 3 quarts.