One of my obsessions in pickling over the past few years has been pickling vegetables which have been smoked or charred. I feel the additional textures and flavors that can be applied through dry heat and smoke can make some pickles more interesting and bring qualities that you would not expect.
With the official end of summer, we are holding on tightly to our corn and tomatoes for another few weeks. After smoking and then pickling red onions and smoking turnips before souring them, I was ready for new vegetables and tomatoes and corn seemed to be good choices. We have one grape tomato plan in our garden, but it has not been fruiting, so I went to a similar piece of produce I found at a farmers market, the ground cherry.
Ground cherries are husked like little tomatillos and have a somewhat sweet-tart flavor. I think they taste far closer to a tomato than a cherry and to me have a little hint of apricot. I felt the slightly mysterious sweetness of the ground cherry would match up well to the charred kernels of sweet corn.
The pickling medium I want to be savory and complex as both the corn and the ground cherry tended to be sweet. I had a nice bottle of fish sauce that I thought might be an interesting addition to a pickle. Once I had decided on fish sauce, the additional brining ingredients were decided on quickly: mint, ginger, and a few scorchingly hot thai bird chilis from our garden – all this alongside simple cider vinegar.
Once the brine was over the pickles, I let the mixture rest overnight. The next day, I had crisped some chicken skin. Figuring that waiting was a silly option, I topped the chicken skins with the pickles. The brine was strong with mint, ginger and truly funky fish sauce. The raw ground cherries burst upon being bitten and the charred corn crunched. The unmistakable flavor of charred corn was the strongest, but the funky brine and sweetness from the ground cherries contributed more than subtly.
In that regard, I find this pickle to be a successful initial attempt. I would likely leave the corn on the cob while charring it, but I like the raw burst of ground cherry. I may slice the chilis to expose the seeds and ribs to the brine for more heat. Still, the primary flavor was charred corn – which to me is a different, and better, flavor than raw corn. The brine and additional ingredients complemented the charred corn flavor well. A good starting point.
Pickled Charred Sweet Corn and Ground Cherries
- 2 ears corn
- 1/2 cup ground cherries
- 4 thai bird chilis
- 2 tablespoons torn mint
- 4 thin slices slices ginger
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup cider vinegar
Step one: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove husks from ground cherries and remove kernels from the corn cobs.
Step two: Toss corn with butter and salt and roast until slightly charred. Let corn cool.
Step three: Combine mint, chilis, corn and ground cherries. Toss until consistent. Fill jar(s).
Step four: Heat sugar, fish sauce, ginger, and vinegar until boiling. Remove from heat. Pour into jar.
Step five: Let cool to room temp. Seal jar. Store in fridge.