How to pair pickled produce

How operators are matching up a bumper crop of fermented vegetables with complementary dishes.


1. Sauerkraut and fatty meats

Sauerkraut cuts through fatty foods with its acidic taste and crunchy texture. Alicia Lunde, sous chef at the University of Vermont Medical Center, tops house-brined pastrami with pasteurized sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and a housemade Thousand Island dressing, all on locally sourced rye bread. The sauerkraut is pasteurized to protect the hospital’s patient population.

2. Pickled vegetables and softer textures

“[Pickling] helps to add some texture and it balances out the acidity versus the fatty and sweet,” says Chris Greve, director of culinary at Unidine corporate headquarters in Boston. He suggests rolling mashed black beans, pickled carrots, peppers and onions in corn tortillas with fresh cilantro and toasted pumpkin seeds.

3. Cucumber namasu and rich fish

Even quick pickling overnight helps pack a dish with flavor and complexity. Boston Children’s Hospital Executive Chef Colin Targett steeps cucumber salad in rice vinegar, salt and sugar for several hours— a Japanese style of pickling called namasu. He then uses it to top miso-marinated sea bass, a fattier fish.

“It’s along the same lines as pairing wines,” Targett says. “It’s kind of like having a rich, buttery chardonnay and using that to cut through something that’s a little bit richer with high acidity.”

4. Fermented vegetables and charcuterie

Fermented beets, radishes and carrots add color and fullness to a plate at less expense than additional meats and cheeses.  At Unidine, Greve uses fermented fruits and vegetables to supplement meat and cheese platters served at corporate events.

5. Kimchee-style vegetables and bibimbap

Executive Chef Ryan Conklin makes the most of Rex Healthcare’s on-site garden in Raleigh, N.C., by pickling cabbage, carrots and cucumber to round out the sweet and spicy flavors of bibimbap at the cook-to-order station. The steak and rice bowl features marinated bulgogi beef, earthy rice, pickled and sautéed vegetables and a fried egg.

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