In spring and early summer, I like to trim all but 2 to 3 stems from small whole radishes and pickle them for a refreshing and crunchy bite to accompany everything from sandwiches to grilled foods. These easy-to-make radish pickles are fermented with whey rather than salt, or pickled in vinegar. Lightly fermented vegetables have a refreshing effervescent quality, while fully fermented vegetables have a pronounced sour flavor.
Whey is the liquid that can be drained from regular yogurt and can be used in baking and other preparations. Use it as the liquid (water or milk) called for in baked goods from muffins to pizza dough, enjoy whey as a beverage, add it to the water when cooking pasta or rice, or use it to marinate chicken, or make pickles.
Makes about 1 quart radishes
1⁄2 cup whey, drained from 2 cups of yogurt (see recipe instructions below)
2 cups distilled or filtered water, at room temperature
1 TB. kosher or sea salt
1 to 2 cloves organic garlic, thinly sliced (optional)
1 tsp. black peppercorns or crushed red pepper (optional)
1 or 2 bunches radishes with tops, washed well and tops trimmed
- To make whey, place 2 cups of any type of plain yogurt in a sieve set over a bowl, and let drain for at least 30 minutes, or until you have 1⁄2 cup drained liquid. The yellow liquid that drains into the bowl is whey. The thickened yogurt—also known as Greek yogurt—can be reserved for another use and enjoyed in any way that you normally serve yogurt.
- Meanwhile, place a wide-mouth 1-quart canning jar in a large pot, cover with water by at least 1 inch, and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes, reduce heat to low, and keep hot until ready to fill the jar with the radishes.
- In a small bowl, stir together whey, distilled water, and kosher salt. Stir liquid until salt is completely dissolved.
- Remove sterilized jar from hot water and drain. Layer radishes, garlic (if using), and black peppercorns (if using) into the jar, leaving at least 1 inch headspace.
- Pour whey mixture over vegetables to cover completely. If there is not enough liquid, prepare more using the ratio of 1⁄2 cup distilled water, 2 tablespoons whey, and 3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt.
- Weight vegetables to keep them submerged in the liquid (a small canning lid or plastic cover from a yogurt container is usually enough to keep the radishes submerged). Cover and let stand at room temperature (68°F to 72°F) for at least 3 days, or up to 3 weeks. During this time, the liquid may bubble up as it ferments. If the liquid stops bubbling before 3 weeks have passed, fermentation is complete, and they should be immediately moved to the refrigerator. Refrigerate up to 1 month.
These radish pickles are known as lacto-fermented, due to the presence of lactic acid bacteria in the whey. Lactic acid bacteria are friendly bacteria used to culture yogurt and give it its tangy flavor.
For more information about food preservation methods and recipes, see the book The Home Preserving Bible by Carole Cancler, available from booksellers everywhere.