Torshi – Persian for “sour” and referring to pickled vegetables – are so popular in Iran that a meal literally isn’t complete without them. This love of soured goods is ubiquitous all over the Middle East; variations can be found not just from country to country and city to city in the region, but even from house to house. As a digstive aid, palate cleanser, and to balance rich meats and spices, they are a must! Therefore, it is easy to find all kinds of recipes ranging from varying types of veggies to the pickling method itself. There’s literally endless variations one could make.
My particular recipe today for makhloot – literally, a mix – is a “quick pickle” or “refrigerator pickle,” meaning that it is acidified using a heated dilluted vinegar brine and placed directly in the fridge for storage. However, you can see recipes ranging from ferments (natural acidification in a salt brine), ferments topped off with vinegar (explained below), to vegetables immersed in pure vinegar (unheated) left at room temp for months before opening, to water bath canned methods and all kinds of hybrids.
Depending on your level of experience, you can play with these different methods; the recipe below is then offered more as a guide for the kinds of ingredients you might consider. It should be noted this too is very flexible (remember “torshi makhloot” just means mixed pickles). You can sub out whatever you have on hand. Have cabbage or green beans? They would be fantastic. Want to sub the cucumber with zucchini Go for it. Want to add eggplant? Just boil the slices for a minute in the vinegar before adding to the jar to help soften them. Don’t have some of the spices or want to use more or less hot peppers? As you wish!
Other pickling methods: Lacto-fermentation – fermenting vegetables through use of a salt brine – is common to the region, but sometimes outsiders are surprised to learn topping off these ferments with vinegar is equally popular and normal. There can be a misconception for fermentation hobbyists that adding vinegar to ferments actually kills the chances of fermentation because the bacteria can’t survive such an acidic component. But this ignores the fact that lactobacillus strains broadly are acid producers and highly acid tolerant (in particular the later strains of brevis and plantarum, which will dominate in this preparation). You will see the method of topping off a ferment with vinegar employed in my Torshi Left (pickled turnips) recipe on the blog, as well as my recipe for Khiar Shoor (pickled cucumbers) in Insane in the Brine: The Official Cookbook.
I wrote this recipe approaching Rosh Hashana wanting to have more Middle Eastern components on my festive meal table, and went with a quick vinegar pickle because I was running out of time and thought some of you might be as well. A quick vinegar pickle of course is a wonderful solution to this issue, ready within a day or so, though they too improve with a little aging.
With all this in mind, let’s do this!
You will need:
- Half gallon mason jar
- Knife & cutting board
- Suggested: wavy slicer
- Medium saucepan
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Optional: gram scale
- Suggested: small frying pan and mortar/pestle to toast then coarsely crush the hard spices
- Suggested: canning funnel
- 2 cups cauliflower (around 1/4 cauli head), broken into florets (190-200g)
- 2 large celery ribs, sliced (~150g)
- 2 medium carrots, sliced (125 – 150g before peeled)
- 1 red pepper (or any color), sliced or large cubed (~175g before cut)
- 1 green pepper (or any color), sliced or large cubed (~175g before cut)
- Cucumbers – 2 pickling (e.g. Kirby) or 3 Persian, thick sliced (~250-260g)
- Optional: A few sprigs thyme and oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried each)
- Optional: 1 hot pepper sliced (or to taste)
- Some vegetable ideas to sub or swap out: cabbage chunks, eggplant slices or cubed, pearl onions, garlic cloves, string beans, olives, etc.
- 1 TBSP peppercorns
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 to 1 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
- pinch nutmeg (optional)
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper (optional)
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar (or sub white vinegar)
- 2 TBSP pickling salt
- 1/2 tsp pickle crisp (calcium chloride) (optional)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder (for the distinctive yellow color; optional)
1.) Cut the veggies and measure out all the ingredients as indicated above. Place all the veggies in the jar using the (suggested) canning funnel.
2.) Toast any whole seed spices in the pan for a couple minutes on medium-high heat but avoid burning (swish the seeds around to evenly toast). Toast until aromatic and then coarsely crush with the mortar and pestle. Then add to the jar, along with any herbs and powdered spices (except the turmeric).
3.) Combine all the remaining ingredients in the saucepan over high heat. Stir well until dissolved and allow to come to a low boil. Pour the hot brine over the jar using the (suggested) canning funnel to within 1/2″ of the mouth, seal, and allow to cool. Then refrigerate and allow at least 2-3 days before opening.