Hot Pickled Cauliflower – A Delicacy from my Youth
Hot pickled cauliflower was my initiation into the wonderful world of spicy foods. As a kid, my mom always had a jar of Bell-View Hot Pickled Cauliflower in our fridge. By my adult standards, it was pretty mild stuff. They had it packed into the jar pretty densely with pieces of bright red cayenne peppers floating around. They used some kind of yellow food coloring to get this brilliant yellow color which contrasted nicely with the red peppers.
I think the point of these was to put them out for guests at dinner parties as little appetizers, but my mom never used them for that. I think I might have been the only one to eat them. But as a pre-teen, I found myself taking a little plate to the fridge and fishing out several pieces to munch on while I was watching Batman on the TV. From time to time, I get a mighty urge to eat them, but they are not easy to find anymore. Might’ve been a 1960s thing that never made it into the new millennium.
It turns out Bell-View is a local western Pennsylvania company who pickled a lot of things besides cauliflower. The ingredients label on the jars always had “Polysorbate-80” on them, so I figured that this must be what made them hot. Of course now I know that it was the cayenne peppers floating around in the brine. I also learned never to eat those peppers no matter how pretty they looked. The consistency of the cauliflower was a little rubbery. This was probably because of the preservatives and over-cooking in the canning process. All-in-all, it was a nice little snack which opened my world up to spicy foods.
Flash forward to the present. In the summer of Covid, my garden has been my sanctuary. The hot, dry weather has kept my yields down a bit, but I still have a ton of stuff, and I really like to pickle things. I pickle jalapeno and serrano peppeers, zucchini, and sauerkraut-stuffed banana peppers. You name it, I’ll pickle it. I learned a few tricks along the way. First, I do not like to sterile can. I think that the process turns the vegetables to mush. Second, I like a sweet pickle. I found a nice recipe a while back and have tweaked it to my taste.
So my goal this time out is to try to replicate the hot pickled cauliflower of my youth. I got a nice head of cauliflower from the local grocer, and I picked a bunch of cayenne peppers from my pepper patch. I chopped the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces, and cut the peppers diagonally just to be fancy. I blanched the cauliflower pieces for about 2 minutes to soften them up a bit, then put them into an ice water bath. I packed the blanched cauliflower and peppers into quart canning jars, and jammed a few whole peppers in just for effect.
I then prepared the pickling brine.
The Cold Pickle Recipe
This is pretty standard stuff and you probably have everything in your kitchen somewhere. However, I was going for the full-on Bell-View experience, so my lovely wife Denise (her of My Life Cookbook fame) told me to put 1 teaspoon of turmeric to get the color right.
3 cups of water
3 cups of white vinegar
3/4 cup of white sugar (for low-carb, substitute low carb sweetener for sugar)
1/4 cup of salt
4 cloves of garlic – crushed
2 teaspoons of oregano
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of turmeric
After bringing this to a boil, I pour it into the jar. When full I put the lid and band on, and that’s all folks. Remember, you have to refrigerate as the canning process isn’t sterile. And you want to let them sit for a while to get yellow and to get hot. In my experience, they will last quite a long time in the fridge, but I usually eat them long before.
The Taste Test
I had to go on my memory for the Bell-View part of the test, but the stuff I made was just delicious. It looks exactly like the Bell-view cauliflower, but was a bit crunchier. If you like pickled cauliflower, you will really love these.
Day tripping through the garden (and the kitchen) with Rick
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