Leonora Ching offers her granddaughter, Alihilani Reynon, a vast array of pickles, but the 17-month-old will pucker up only for the Sweet and Sour Star Fruit.

Pick a peck

A new cookbook explores
a wealth of sweet, sour
and salty suggestions

If you could open up Leonora Ching's head and look inside, you'd probably find a pickle.

The woman has pickles on the brain. Which is not to say her brain is pickled, or how could she have come up with such a singular cookbook idea: "The Pickle Lady's Pickle Passion"?


Leonora Ching's cookbook is available at Executive Chef and Native Books, both at Ward Warehouse, and the Foster Botanical Garden gift shop. Or order through her Web site, www.picklepassion.com.

Quick tricks

Baby Eggplant in Miso: Cover 1 pound of small eggplants (leave stems on) with 1/2 cup white miso. Press with heavy weight and refrigerate 3 to 4 weeks, turning occasionally. Serve sliced or whole.

Repickled Dills: Drain liquid from 1-gallon jar of dill pickles. Slice pickles and return to jar. Heat 3 cups sugar in 1/2 cup vinegar to dissolve. Cool and pour over pickles. Refrigerate. Ready to eat in a few hours.

Preserved Fresh Ginger: Cut ginger into chunks (peeled or unpeeled) and fit tightly into a jar. Cover with vinegar or any type of hard liquor or wine. Refrigerate. Will keep for months. Vinegar/liquor taste will not be apparent when ginger is sliced and used in cooked dishes.

Ching goes far beyond your average dill pickles, pickled mango or even pickled garlic. Her cookbook addresses all that, of course, but that's common-man stuff.

To be the Pickle Lady means reaching into galaxies beyond -- to Chinese Pickled Tea Eggs, Watermelon Rind Pickles, Burmese Pickled Shrimp, Sweet and Sour Star Fruit ...

She covers wide ethnic ground as well, to include Japanese namasu and takuwan, Korean kim chee (four types), Chinese mustard cabbage and local-style ogo and Wrinkly Radish. Several Burmese ideas came courtesy of her husband's family.

The cookbook was born of a entrepreneurship class that Ching took last year. Asked to consider what most interested her, she came up with the idea of cooking and writing a cookbook.

Why pickles? "It's cheap," Ching says, as though stating the obvious.

Plus, pickles are practical. For the most part, the ingredients are simple, found in the average pantry. And although it can take a few days to maximize flavor, hands-on prep time is minimal. "It tastes good and it's easy to make," Ching says. "It's fast."

The cookbook so far is a very low-key production. Ching had only 100 copies printed and did the binding herself. She's s been carrying it around town, looking for stores to sell it on her behalf.

A few copies are on sale at Executive Chef and Native Books, both at Ward Warehouse, and the Foster Gardens gift shop. Copies may also be ordered through her Web site, www.picklepassion.com, for $9.97, plus postage.

Ching is working on a second printing of 200 copies, and if interest is good, she'll contact a higher-volume printer for a larger run.

"Pickle Passion" is a retirement enterprise for Ching, who worked as an occupational therapist for 24 years until last August.

Leonora Ching scoops up a healthy serving of pickled onions and cauliflower.

She comes from a heavy-duty cooking family, but showed no interest in learning herself until she left the cocoon of mom-made meals. "When I went away to the University of Kansas, there was nothing. I didn't even know how to cook rice. When I came home I would watch my aunties -- I would stand in the corner and write notes."

Through this family training, Ching became proficient, especially in the ways of Cantonese cuisine. She taught cooking classes for the blind and visually impaired through Ho'pono, a state rehabilitation program, teaching clients to make a full-on Chinese meal from scratch.

Pickling sort of crept up on her, "off and on and in between."

But feedback from friends and family was good, and her one venture into selling prepared pickles at a craft fair earned her $1,000 in two days.

"I decided pickles are my strong point."

Three recipes follow that help show the wide variety in Ching's cookbook.

When vinegar is called for, Ching suggests plain white vinegar. "I found it doesn't make a difference -- Japanese vinegar, cider vinegar -- and it's the cheapest."

Chinese Pickled Tea Eggs

1 dozen hard-boiled eggs
1 2-inch piece ginger, smashed
1/4 cup Chinese black tea leaves
2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice
3 whole star anise
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons Hawaiian salt
4 cups water

Roll eggs on counter to crack shells all over. Do not peel.

Gather ginger, tea leaves, five-spice, star anise and cinnamon stick in a 6-inch piece of cheesecloth; tie bundle with string.

Place water in pot; add spice bundle, soy sauce, sugar and salt. Bring to boil. Add eggs, bring water back to boil. Lower heat and simmer 1 hour.

Let eggs cool in liquid.

Refrigerate eggs with liquid and all the spices 1 week.

To serve, peel eggs. The whites will have a brown, crackly pattern from the spices. Serve whole or sliced in half. Peeled eggs may be refrigerated in the liquid. Discard spice bag.

Soy Pickled Cucumber

2 pounds whole Japanese cucumbers (about 3 large)
1 teaspoon Hawaiian salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Mix cucumbers with salt in large stainless steel or glass bowl. Cover and weigh down with a heavy object. Refrigerate 5 to 7 days, turning once or twice a day.

Rinse cucumbers well, then cut into bite-sized sticks.

Heat salt, soy sauce, water, sugar and sesame oil until sugar is dissolved. Cool, then pour over cucumbers.

Bottle and refrigerate at least a day before eating. Will stay crisp several weeks.

Wrinkly Radish

2 to 3 pounds radishes
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons Hawaiian salt
1 small Hawaiian chili pepper, optional

Trim tops and roots from radishes; wash well. Place in a glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat vinegar, sugar, water and salt until dissolved, about 3 minutes. Cool.

Poor liquid over radishes. Bruise chili pepper and add. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate a few hours or overnight, until slightly shriveled.

Pack radishes and liquid into a half-gallon jar. Refrigerate 2 to 3 days before eating. Serves 12.

Nutritional information unavailable

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