Sunday, February 14, 2010

Can Jam: Vietnamese Carrot and Daikon Pickle

In metro Detroit, the blue collar east side suburbs of Madison Heights/Clawson are home to the best Vietnamese restaurants in the area.   One day when I was up in the northeast burbs for a business meeting, I decided to hit Que Hong on John R in Madison Heights to try banh mi and pho.  Bahn mi was last year's hot food trend (this year, it's going to be popovers and macarons), but given that there are no Vietnamese restaurants in Ann Arbor, I was a little behind in my food trendiness.  Banh mi is what we call in Michigan a "sub sandwich" - you can get many flavors of banh mi. The one I tasted was barbecued pork and it was fantastic!   My brother and I had to split one it was so huge, and it cost something like $2.50.  It had lots of vegetables on it.  I liked the pho too, which is a delicate noodle soup, but really loved the banh mi and can't wait to try to make it at home - here are some recipes to try.  I made a batch of carrot and daikon pickle called Do Chua that is used on banh mi for this month's Can Jam challenge, which is carrots.  

How the Can Jam works is each month, an ingredient is thrown down and all 160 plus can jammers have to preserve it using the boiling water bath method.  There's lots of interesting carrot jam/jellies/marmalades/chutneys out there, but my family won't eat exotic jams/jellies and marmalades, and I have enough chutney in the larder to last me a while.  So I knew I had to make a pickle.   I thought of making a variation on Alton Brown's Firecrackers or the National Honey Board's Spicy Pickled Carrots, but the idea of making my own banh mi sandwich at home captured my imagination. Do Chua is an essential banh mi ingredient.  This recipe is based on the one I found in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which is the one canning book I'd want if I were stuck on a desert island with some canning jars and rings and a case of canning lids.  If you are new to canning, it's a great book to learn canning techniques.  It also has some very unique recipe ideas that inspire me.  

For this recipe,  I made some changes to it, but the proportions are as they were written in the book.   Speaking of making changes to canning recipes, it is often said that you can't improvise.  Nonsense!  When canning, it's important not to improvise on the proportion of acid to the rest of the content in the jar (vegetable, water, etc) or processing time, but everything else is fair game.  For example, in this recipe, you could change the spices, adjusting the amount of sugar or ginger or omitting the star anise, but don't mess with the amount of vinegar, water or vegetables.  You could make it solely out of daikon or carrot, I suppose, but I am not sure how it would taste.  The combo works out great together.   I know that star anise is a strong flavor that many people have opinions about, but I wouldn't omit it for making banh mi.  A common ingredient of banh mi sandwiches is Chinese five spice powder, and star anise is literally the "star" of that seasoning, so I suggest you leave it in.  Be not afraid - It doesn't seem to overpower this pickle at all.   Sadly, I couldn't find local carrots or daikon at the farmer's market here in Michigan in deep winter, so I had to settle for American grown at the minimum - mine were grown in California.  At least my sugar was local! Michigan ranks 4th in the nation for sugar beet production.

Some notes on technique:

When brining pickles, hard water can interfere with the formation of acid and prevent pickles from curing properly.  Water that has been softened with water softening salts can discolor pickles or make the brine cloudy.  So, I used to buy bottled distilled water for my food preservation projects until I learned about this technique to soften my own water.  My Microplane citrus zester worked well to grate the ginger - peeling it wasn't even necessary. Also, the daikon and carrot was suggested to be julienned, so I started out making mine that way with my mandoline, but it was very time consuming. I switched over to using the large grating plate on my food processor, and the results were quite similar.



Do Chua a.k.a Vietnamese Carrot and Daikon Pickle

My notes:  This recipe makes about 4 sealed pint jars with a little left over for sampling - plan for 5 jars just in case. 

3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
1.5 cups granulated sugar
2 t. grated fresh ginger 
2 lbs carrots, shredded
2 lbs daikon radish, shredded
5 whole star anise

Fire up your canner and prepare your jars.   If you've never canned before, here's how.  In a large enameled dutch oven, combine vinegar, water, sugar and ginger and bring to a boil, stirring to disolve sugar.  Add carrot and daikon and stir for one minute.  Remove from heat.  Place one star anise into each of your hot jars, and pack the vegetables into the jars leaving about a 1/2 inch or so of headspace.  Ladle some liquid  in to cover the vegetables.  Remove air bubbles with the weapon of your choice...chopsticks or swizzle sticks work well, and add some more brine to bring it up to a 1/2 inch from the top.  Wipe off the rim and cap the jars.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Shut off the heat, remove the canner lid and let the jars rest for 5 minutes.   This helps prevent the jars from spewing while they are cooling.  Cool for 24 hours, remove the bands and store.

18 comments:

ap269 said...

Enjoyed reading your post - it was so informative! Contrary to your family, my family LOVES new, exotic jams, and as I'm not a big pickles eater, I made 2 carrot jams for the challenge.

ap269 said...

To answer your question: I live in Germany. Too far away for a Can Jam Exchange :-(. The idea is GREAT, though.

Robin said...

I agree with you about the canning creativity although I would add, if you are at all unsure what changes can be made follow recipes closely or ask someone who understands. I think it takes a certain kind of logic to understand how canning recipes can safely be altered. This is my best guess based on the questions I get from friends who also can.

If only I had picked up more daikon at my last CSA pick up I would be making this right away. I need to bookmark this for when I get more vegetables.

-Robin

Mom said...

Yes Robin - good point. If anyone ever has a question about whether it is safe to make a modfication, feel free to ask someone they trust that uses modern canning methods. But it isn't rocket science, either, so be not afraid!

the lady said...

Great post! I love that Ball Complete Guide book, too. I'm going to make these pickles as one of my first pickling forays!

Tricia said...

These sound yummy - except I don't much like pickles. But the flavor combination sounds great.

And hey, there are Vietnamese restaurants in Ann Arbor! There's Saigon Garden near campus, and I think I read about another one on Kitchen Chick (I'm thinking it was near the intersection of Carpenter & Stone School). And there's one in downtown Ypsi, as well. But I guess Saigon Garden doesn't bother to keep up with trends, because I've never seen that sandwich on their menu (I have the take-out menu in my top desk drawer at work :^).

Mom said...

I've heard of Saigon Garden - never been there, but understand it's more of a Chinese food place with some Vietnamese thrown in. Is it any good? I've read some bad reviews of it on Chowhound.

And were you thinkining of Dalat in Ypsi? I think it closed...

Liz said...

I'm so glad you did this one! I was wondering how it would look- It's gorgeous! I did a variation of the carrot pickles on the same page.

RJ Flamingo said...

Love daikon! This is a great choice - I'd have no problem getting my husband to eat this pickle. :-).

I decided to keep it simple till I get a little more experience under my belt, but I definitely need to get a copy of the Ball book.

Julia said...

I did this recipe as well! Looks fab. What a nice simple pickle. I love that you have local sugar. What a boon for a canner!

Sara said...

I was thinking about this one too! Glad to see you did it!

Jane said...

These look so good. I'm going to give them a try very soon.

Ravenous Couple said...

we had the same problem when going to school at UM...no good Vietnamese food in AA so we had to make our own! :) Very nice recipe and nice use of adding star anise to the pickles.

Tom said...

Siagon Garden (just off campus) is *terrible*. That's a never, never again restuarant for me. I've been told that the Vietnamese restuarant on Stone School is good and authentic - the owner's sister cut my hair one day and referred me over. I've not had a chance to go yet, but the owner is actually Vietnamese.

I've been looking at a smiliar recipe for the pickled carrots and diakon for a while, but haven't gotten around to trying them. Your rec make me even more motovated to try this. :D

mllenoelle said...

I wish it was more practical to can small amounts of things. I love carrot & daikon pickle, but it would take me forever to get through one pint let alone 5! The only pickle I've ever made was a red onion pickle from the Zuni Café book (which incidentally had star anise too). They were tasty but my house reeked of vinegar for days!

Re: the Vietnamese restaurants, that's too bad there are none near you. We usually go to Thang Long (the duck & cabbage salad is to die for) but I'll have to try the place you mentioned.

Tricia said...

I had no idea Saigon Garden was so despised! The menu makes it look like a Vietnamese place with some Chinese (rather than the other way around), but I'm certainly no connouisseur of the cuisine. I do like what I get for lunch (bun thit nuong - rice noodle with grilled meat) and really like one of their hot pot dishes (thit heo kho to - spicy pork w coconut). I guess I'll have to try the place on Stone School to see what I've been missing!

Tricia said...

Also, we drove through downtown Ypsi yesterday (3/20/2010) and Dalat is still open.

Mom said...

Cool! I had never been to Dalat but I'll have to try it. I think it was closed for a while, must have reopened or I am confused.