When she traveled to the United States by ship from Palestine, pickles were one of the many things that my great-grandmother Esther prepared for the thirty-day trip. It was important for the family to bring their own food since they kept kosher; the only food they could eat that was provided by the ship was bread. The acidic, salty flavor not only whets the palate but enhances the taste of many foods, especially bland dishes. Syrian pickles also look pretty: pink turnips and cauliflower, green tomatoes, and brown baby eggplants are always the finishing touches found in a maazeh spread to add color and texture. Be sure to use coarse or kosher salt when making the pickles; the iodine in table salt will cause them to go bad.
- 1 large beet, peeled and quartered (omit if pickling tomatoes)
- One of the following (if you want to mix cauliflower and turnips, use half the amount of each):
- 1 head cauliflower, broken by hand into florets
- ½ medium-size head green cabbage, cored and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 2 pounds turnips (about 4 large), peeled and sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds, then sliced again into semicircles
- 7 medium-size very firm (almost unripe) yellow or green tomatoes, left whole
- 4 cups cold water
- 1½ cups white vinegar
- 4½ tablespoons coarse or kosher salt
- 4 large cloves garlic, cut into halves
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1. Fill a 1-quart jar with the vegetable of choice, placing the quartered beet on the bottom, if using.
2. Bring the water, vinegar, salt, and garlic to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Pour the mixture over the vegetables. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes, mix well, and close the jar tightly. Set aside in a cool, dark place for 3 full days (72 hours). Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 months.
This recipe serves 15.