Keith writes with a question about pickles and whether they are good for you and can be a good source of nutrition.
Are Pickles Good for You?
Pickling is a time-honored way of preserving foods for an extended period of time without refrigeration. Traditionally, it was used to ensure a food supply during times when fresh food would be unavailable, such as over the winter or on a long voyage. You can pickle just about anything: fruits, vegetables, even meat and fish.
What Are the Benefits of Pickling Foods?
In a nutshell, the idea of pickling is to create an environment that is inhospitable to the microbes and enzymes that would normally cause food to decay—as well to prevent the growth of micro-organisms that could make you sick. This is usually done using a combination of salt, acid, and/or fermentation with friendly lactobacillus bacteria. Spices, oil, or sugar can also be added to enhance the flavor.
What are the Health Benefits of Vinegar?
In traditionally fermented pickles, the sour taste is the result of natural acids that are produced by the bacteria during fermentation. Other methods skip the fermentation and use vinegar instead. Vinegar has some unique benefits of its own.
The claim that vinegar helps you burn fat is true, but only on a technicality. The acetic acid in vinegar can increase your fat-burning metabolism. But, as I discussed in a previous article, this effect is so small that it is unlikely to translate into any noticeable fat loss. However, adding vinegar to a meal can have a noticeable effect on your blood sugar levels. The acids in vinegar slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, which is generally a good thing.
See Also: Does Vinegar Burn Fat?
How Are Modern Pickles Made?
In the days of modern food processing, of course, we have other ways of keeping food from spoiling, such as refrigeration and pasteurization. Indeed, most of the pickles sold these days in grocery stores actually rely on pasteurization and/or refrigeration to preserve the food. Salt and vinegar are still used, but mostly for flavor.
Are Pickles Nutritious?
As for how nutritious pickles are, it depends on what you’re pickling and the method you use. Keith, who lives in Japan, is in luck. Traditional Asian pickles are probably the most nutritious kind of pickle. First of all, they start with cabbage, radishes, peppers, and other super-nutritious vegetables. The raw veggies are then packed with salt or a brining solution and allowed to ferment at room temperature. Fresh sauerkraut, native to Germany and Eastern Europe, is another example of a traditionally fermented vegetable.
No heat is involved in the production of traditionally fermented pickles and that helps preserve the nutrients in the vegetables. In fact, the fermentation process actually adds valuable nutrients. The lactobacillus bacteria that cause the fermentation produce B vitamins and also act as probiotics that help keep your digestive tract healthy.
See Also: Benefits of Fermented Foods
Pickles and Salt
The only potential downside to traditionally fermented pickles is the salt content. Again, the salt is key to promoting fermentation and suppressing harmful bacteria. If you’re trying to limit your sodium intake, you’d want to keep that in mind. Other than that, however, traditional fermented pickles are a nutritious alternative to fresh vegetables.
See Also: Sodium High
Do Pickles Count as a Vegetable?
The sweet cucumber pickles you typically encounter here in the U.S., on the other hand, are probably among the least nutritious type of pickles. Cucumbers aren’t terribly nutritious vegetables to begin with. Boiling them in sugar syrup, packing them in jars, and then heat-treating the jars to pasteurize them doesn’t exactly improve their nutritional profile. In fact, given the sugar, the salt, and the lack of any meaningful nutritional value, I’d be reluctant to let you count sweet pickles as one of your servings of vegetables. Dill pickles wouldn’t be high in nutrition, either, but at least would be lower in sugar.
See also: Why is Sugar Bad?
Pickled carrots, cauliflower, green beans, or combinations of pickled vegetables—sometimes called chow chow or giardiniera—would fall somewhere in between traditionally fermented pickles like Kim-chi or sauerkraut and the standard American bread-and-butter pickle.
One the one hand, they are usually heat-processed, which involves some nutrient losses, and you wouldn’t get the benefits of probiotic bacteria. On the other hand, they’re made from nutritious vegetables and usually without as much added sugar. I’d count them as a serving of vegetables. But again, you’d want to be mindful of the sodium.
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Chicken thighs seem to be flexing their culinary muscles lately. They are continuously showing up in many of the monthly food magazines, on food TV shows and menus. I hear more about chicken thighs now than ever before.
Although they take longer to cook, chicken thighs are a nice change from boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You can buy them boneless and skinless or with skin and bone on. I go for the latter because keeping the skin on helps keep the meat moist.
When it comes to cooking thighs, most chefs will tell you that thighs are more forgiving because they are dark meat and therefore fattier. It’s that fat that helps keep them moist during long cooking times and, of course, what makes them so flavorful.
In this recipe, the thighs get another flavor boost from brining. Brining — soaking meat or poultry in a seasoned water solution — is a favorite technique I use often, especially with poultry. It’s not new and has been around for centuries as a preserving method.
A basic brine consists only of water and salt, there are ones that use a host of liquids from beer to juices to wine and soda. The brine for this recipe is made with an unusual suspect — pickle juice. It’s a great way to use what’s leftover after the pickles are gone. I’ve used pickle juices before in many things (a Bloody Mary cocktail is the first thing that comes to mind), but never brined chicken in it.
In the end, the chicken was super moist and the flavor profile was amazing. The sauce, made from the pan drippings, was a bonus with its tangy pickle taste that wasn’t overpowering. Sauces in general, made in the same pan the meat was cooked in, benefit from the concentrated juices and bits of food on the bottom of the pan. Those bits — called “fond” are full of flavor.
So keep in mind the main thrust of brining is that it adds seasoned moisture to whatever you’re cooking. Having the added moisture means the end result isn’t dry even if you overcook it. And we all know that’s a good thing when it comes to poultry.
Serves: 6 / Preparation time: 10 minutes (plus overnight brining time)
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
The original recipe called for pickle juice from a 64-ounce jar of pickles. We used the amount from a 32-ounce jar, which was sufficient for 6 chicken thighs, about 6½ ounces each.
Pickle juice from a 32-ounce jar of kosher dills
6 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned if desired (2 ½ to 2¾ pounds total)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground black pepper or favorite all-purpose seasoning
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup dry white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 dill pickles, coarsely chopped
¼ cup chopped red sweet pepper
Drain pickles, reserving brine (about 4 cups). Place pickles in an airtight container. Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Add chicken to brine in a large pickle jar or place in a large resealable plastic bag set in a bowl; seal jar or bag. Chill for 8 to 24 hours.
At least 45 minutes before cooking, remove the chicken from the brine, discard the brine, pat dry and place on a plate.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove chicken from brine; pat dry. Discard brine. In a small bowl combine flour and pepper. Coat chicken with flour mixture; shake off any excess.
In a large, heavy ovenproof skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs, skin-side down and cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Turn chicken over and transfer the skillet to oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until juices run clear or internal temperature of the chicken without touching the bone is 175 degrees. Remove from oven. Transfer chicken to platter; let rest 5 minutes. (If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, transfer the chicken to a sided baking sheet. Use the skillet and the juices from the baking sheet to make the sauce.)
Return the skillet to stove. If you use a baking sheet, scrape the juices and any browned bits from the baking sheet into the skillet. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from skillet. Add wine; bring to boiling over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan until wine nearly evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add broth; bring to boiling until reduced to about ½ cup, about 2 minutes. Stir in butter. Season to taste with pepper. Remove from heat; stir in dill. Pour sauce over chicken. Top with chopped pickles and red sweet peppers before serving.
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, January 2014 issue.
Test by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
363 calories ( 53% from fat), 21 gram fat ( 6 grams sat. fat), 11 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 514 mg sodium, 115 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.
Contact Susan Selasky at 313-222-6432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call it the mystery of the “winter garden salad.”
The day before Tuesday night’s state dinner honoring French President François Hollande, the White House released details of the four-course seasonal American menu, designed by executive chef Cristeta Comerford. The state dinner announcement included the sources for many of the featured ingredients, though mostly in broad terms: osetra caviar from Illinois, bittersweet chocolate from Hawaii, etc.
The exception was the second course, a winter garden salad featuring petite mixed radishes, baby carrots and merlot lettuce. The early menu described it as a “tribute to The First Lady’s White House Kitchen Garden,” an indirect nod that made sense given that vegetable gardens tend to go dormant when the ground turns cold and hard. The description did not specifically say where the ingredients were sourced.
But that same Monday, Michelle Obama tweeted a photo of countless Ball jars packed with vegetables apparently pulled from the White House kitchen garden. “Pickled veggies from the @WhiteHouse Kitchen Garden ready to be added to tomorrow night’s #StateDinner! #LetsMove,” the first lady wrote.
The next day, mere hours before the state dinner, the White House released a behind-the-scenes video.
“We wanted to give our guests a taste of the kitchen garden,” Comerford tells the camera. “We were very fortunate that during the summer months, we had so [many] varieties of vegetables from the garden that we were able to pickle.”
Comerford lists a few of the vegetables available, including fennel, hot peppers and sweet onions. “We’re incorporating a lot of these pickles into some of our canapes and some of our salad.”
Calling the salad the first lady’s “signature dish,” Comerford says the plate looks more like a terrarium. The chef then mentions some of its ingredients, naming those miniature carrots and radishes, but also noting the presence of cucumbers. “And do not forget, we also have the White House honey,” Comerford says, “that we’ll be using for our dressing.”
“It’s a little representation of the kitchen garden,” she adds about the salad. “It’s really going to be an awesome plate.”
But if you compare the ingredients of the salad with the pickled vegetables available, the two lists don’t line up. So just what ingredients in the salad came from the White House kitchen garden?
Late Thursday, as another round of snow blanketed the ground, a White House official kind of, sort of cleared up the picture. The pickled ingredients were used in various canapes, and thyme, sage and rosemary from the White House kitchen garden were rolled into an herbed ricotta, an uncredited ingredient in the salad.
But that just lead to another question: Were these fresh herbs actually grown in the White House kitchen garden or some other place, like a nearby greenhouse? A White House official would confirm only that they came from the garden.
In speaking with previous White House chefs, I know the kitchen staff has been growing its own produce for decades, long before the White House kitchen garden. They typically were plants and herbs grown in pots — not on a plot of land on the South Lawn where the first lady’s garden is located.
“We had pots of tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers and herbs and stuff,” said John Moeller, a White House chef from 1992 to 2005. “But we kept it up on the roof of the White House, right outside by the window of my office, our office.”
“It was just big pots, and they were just lined up against the wall,” Moeller added.
Could those pots still be on the roof, providing the herbs in the salad’s ricotta? I’m still waiting on the White House for a precise answer on the source of the herbs. But in the meantime, I drove down to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to see if I could unravel the mystery myself.
That’s when I saw them on the South Lawn, right where the kitchen garden sits: tiny hoop houses, those plastic-covered structures designed to extend the growing season. They‘ve been a staple of the White House kitchen garden for several seasons now, a fact that I had all but forgotten when it was first reported years ago. In short, it seems the herbs could have indeed come from the White House kitchen garden.
The state dinner salad: Picking it apart to find the real White House garden ingredients By Tim Carman, Published: February 14
Johannesburg – American rap superstar Eminem has ditched drugs and is likely to tuck into quality German pickles and low-fat yoghurt before taking to South African stages next week.
The 41-year-old singer from the US city of Detroit, who once nearly died of a drug overdose, now has a squeaky-clean and booze-free backstage rider.
However, the razor-tongued musician, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, refuses to compromise on the quality of his pickles.
Eminem advises concert promoters that only pickles by the premier German brand Gundelsheim will suffice in his backstage dressing rooms.
Other items required by the rapper include low-fat yoghurt, peanut butter, jumbo shrimps and Swiss mild cheddar cheese. He also insists on dumbbells backstage.
Eminem has refused media interviews in the run-up to the SA leg of his Rapture 2014 Tour, which kicks off at the Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday, 26 February before heading to Joburg’s Ellis Park Stadium on Saturday, 1 March.
The singer, who also goes by the alias of Slim Shady, won various awards for his 2010 album Recovery, which is about escaping excess.
Rolling Stone magazine has chronicled his struggle with substance abuse, including various prescription drugs including Vicodin and Valium.
He collapsed in his bathroom after overdosing on methadone in December 2007.
He was rushed to hospital where doctors informed him that he had taken the equivalent of four bags of heroin, and was “about two hours from dying”, reported the magazine. Eminem has a teenage daughter, Hailie Jade.
Rolling Stone ranked Eminem 82nd on its The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.
He will be supported in South Africa by Jack Parow and DJ Ready D, said local spokesperson for the tour Penny Stein.
Concert promoters Dainty Group marketed the shows as “game-changing hip-hop events curated by Eminem, with ears tuned to the streets, and eyes locked on rap’s future”.
- City Press