Pickled foods have traditionally been consumed in virtually every culture and population on the planet. They are part of the traditional Mediterranean, Central European, Asian, Balkan, and Latin ethnic gastronomy among others.
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They are vegetables that can be not fermented if they are simply pressed with salt or left to macerate in a solution with vinegar (umeboshi that contains salt and never with commercial wine vinegar since they demineralize) or also those that are fermented by adding salt.
They can be made with vinegar, oil, salt, aromatic herbs, berries, etc. This combination of ingredients, when fermented is a natural way to preserve food by acidification: if it is well done, acetic acid is formed that prevents the development of microorganisms that could alter or break down the product.
It is already well known that one of the main properties of fermented foods is to restore the balance between the different microorganisms that live in our intestines.
The pressings are made by grating or finely chopping vegetables such as cabbage, red cabbage, and carrot, mixing them with salt, and kneading-squeezing-squeezing the vegetables well with your hands (a rustic method that I love because it directly confers our ki or vital energy to the food) and then putting them between two deep dishes to which a weight is added on top or with a special vegetable press that you can buy. This method of transformation of vegetables which is usually called “short pickles”, yanguates them because the salt and weight (yang) make them release the water (yin) they contain.
Vegetables pressed at an energy level cool and relax. On a physical level, they help drain the body by enhancing the elimination of fluids. If we press roots we are directing this draining effect towards the lower part of the body, instead, if we press leafy vegetables, it cools the organs of the upper body. If the vegetables are kept with salt for several days in the liquid they release, they can ferment.
In the Mediterranean villages, grandmothers made pickles with plants that they found or cultivated in their fields, with different varieties of olives, scallions dyed with beet juice, garlic, pickles and these were taken out in the center of the table to accompany lunch or meals. They are called brine and are usually made under pressure or in maceration. Many of these plants and fruits have very beneficial properties for health.
Particularly interesting are the pickles of wild sea fennel and shepherd’s grape plants, which are made in the same way.
Types and variants of pickles
As we have seen, the list of vegetables that can be pickled is very broad. Let’s see, below, which are the most popular both in the cuisines of Spain and in other cuisines of the world.
Pickles: there is no appetizer in Spain without a plate of pickled pickles on the table and, in fact, although here and in other cuisines of the world they also serve as a garnish for some dishes such as fish and chips or as an ingredient in sandwiches as international as the Cuban sandwich.
Olives: along with the above, olives are the great stars of the aperitif in Spain. They can be seasoned, stuffed or even seasoned with some aromatic herbs, but they are never lacking when it comes to whetting your appetite, accompanying a good lunch or giving way to other dishes or more forceful tapas.
Rabanitos: although also very popular, its flavor is somewhat particular and is not usually liked by everyone. Its texture is crunchy and is usually served in very thin slices in salads, in hot dishes such as Mexican pozole verde, as well as in one of the best known recipes of Hawaiian cuisine, the poke bowl.
Capers: it is the fruit of a plant born in the Mediterranean whose intense flavor does not go unnoticed. It is said that a quality caper should be round, tight, green without spots and without rabito or impurities. Widely consumed in countries such as Italy and France, it is part of well-known recipes such as tartar sauce, putanesca sauce or steak tartare.
Chives: It is another of the great classics of pickles in Spain where they are served as an aperitif, although they are also widely consumed in other countries such as England where they are known as picckled onions. They integrate great in hot dishes such as stews and even in sandwiches and sandwiches to provide a touch of acidity.
Fermented cabbage: it is known internationally as sauerkraut and is the result of mixing cabbage and salt. It is the sugars present in cabbage that will serve as food for the bacteria that will produce the fermentation. This typical pickle of France and Germany is usually taken raw as an accompaniment to salads or in sandwiches such as the classic Reuben sandwich.
Why are they still so popular today?
The first answer is very simple: its taste. We all love that refreshing and invigorating touch that its acidic flavor gives to our appetizers.
But there is more, and that is that they are very healthy because:
They are rich in probiotics: they protect the intestinal flora, so important to have correct digestion and to protect us from numerous diseases;
Help in digestion – they contain enzymes that prevent bloating and constipation;
Strengthen the defenses: thanks to its vitamin C content, which is also beneficial for many other aspects such as the synthesis of collagen and the proper functioning of metabolism;
They have a satiating effect: that’s why they will help you follow low-calorie diets by taking them between meals if you are hungry or before the main meals;
Reduce the desire to eat sweets: this way you will reduce the consumption of refined sugars;
They are a source of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium: they are very healthy to replenish minerals after sports and sweating.