There was a brilliant Chef’s Table episode about a 60-year-old Zen Buddhist nun called Jeon Kwan. Jeon cooks for the other monks at her temple as well as the occasional visitors. It’s a brilliant episode for a number of reasons, but the way they talk about her cooking is something special.
They talk about time being one of the most important ingredients in her food. And I’d never thought about it before but it is so true. In fermentation, time is everything. It’s a variable that you can’t speed up, whether you’re ageing meat, brewing beer or, in Jeon Kwan’s case, making soy sauce.
Time is an inescapable facet of pickling. Cornichons and gherkins have been in my childhood fridge since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. My grandfather has a shelf in his fridge dedicated to pickled goods… my blood is, quite literally, diffused with pickle juice.
Here is a pickled cucumber recipe.
100g White Wine Vinegar, or blend with cider vinegar
1 pinch salt
1tbsp of chopped dill
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
Heat all of the ingredients in a pan over a low heat, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. When the sugar has dissolved, transfer the pickling liquid into a container and allow to cool in the fridge. Once cool, place your cucumber in an old jam jar or similar airtight container, cover with the pickling liquid. Store in a cool, dry place.
You could eat the cucumber the next day and taste the pickling, or wait a month and the flavour will have changed. Let time do its business.