Pick a peck of payapa pickles
FILIPINO pickled papaya looks a lot like Thai green papaya salad, but it's meant to be a condiment -- too tangy to eat by the forkful.
The combination of grated papaya, carrots and onions is often served as an accompaniment to meats and fish, and is especially good with heavy dishes such as oxtail stew, offering a nice biting contrast to the main dish's fattiness.
In response to a request from a Mr. Bana, I went through a dozen or so versions, finding a great deal of variety. The one that follows was adapted from "Memories of Philippine Kitchens" by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan (Steward, Tabori & Chang, 2006, $35).
The pickles -- called Achara -- come together simply, although it is an overnight process. The tedious part is grating all that papaya -- a food processor would be very handy. The veggies are salted, then allowed to sit overnight. The pickling solution is simmered for a while, then also refrigerated overnight. The next day, all the excess liquid is squeezed out of the vegetables and they go into jars for their pickling soak.
The many versions I looked at were all similar in that they call for grated papaya (and it doesn't matter what type, as long as it's green), carrots and white or green onion. Some include sliced bell peppers (red or green). A couple called for raisins, as well.
The type of vinegar varied greatly, as did the amount of sugar (and sometimes it was brown sugar), so the exact tanginess is a matter of personal taste.
This recipe could be used as a baseline for your efforts. If you want a milder pickle, use less vinegar and more sugar. For more sourness, try cider vinegar and less sugar. Add peppers, if you like. Obviously there is lots of room for experimentation.
1 pound green papaya, peeled, seeded and grated
2 medium carrots, grated
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 small red chili peppers, seeded and sliced
1 tablespoon salt
» Picking solution:
2 cups rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1-inch piece ginger, cut in matchsticks
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Combine grated papaya, carrots, onion and chili pepper. You should have about 4 cups. Toss with salt and refrigerate overnight.
To make pickling solution: Combine all ingredients except pepper in saucepan and bring to boil. Stir to dissolve sugar, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Cool; add pepper. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth. Rinse papaya mixture in colander, then wrap in cheesecloth and squeeze out water. Fill 2 pint jars with mixture. Strain pickling solution and pour into jars. Will keep refrigerated for several weeks.
Nutritional information unavailable.
» Next week: Another Filipino dish, Kari-Kari.
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