One of the things I love about my boyfriend is our shared, almost fanatical love of certain foods. I’m pretty sure that about 23% of our relationship is based on radishes, and another 37% is based on pickles. We both love snacking on radishes–the spicier, the better–and we both unapologetically eat pickles of all kinds straight from the jar. So it’s no surprise that pickled radishes are one of our mutual favorite foods.
I love eating pink radishes raw, but when it comes to pickling, I’m a sucker for daikon. Daikon radishes are larger and denser than their bunchy cousins, with a mild but distinct radish flavor. Pickled with lots of sugar, they make a delightfully crunchy sweet-and-sour snack. I’ve had pickled daikon radish all over the place, tucked into sushi rolls or onigiri boxes, but not until recently did it occur to me to try pickling my own. One taste, and Sam shouted “OH YEAH THIS IS GREAT” and immediately took possession of the jar.
These are straightforward refrigerator pickles, easy to make and easy to eat. The radish flavor starts out mellow, but intensifies as the pickles sit in the brine, so that every nibble is sugary, spicy, and sour all at once. I added a bit of ginger, to warm things up a bit, but it honestly wasn’t necessary–the simple, uncluttered flavors of radish, sugar, and vinegar are lovely enough. I’ve seen a lot of pickled radishes that are dyed a garish shade of yellow, so I decided to mimic that by adding a bit of turmeric to the brine. It’s also a personal preference thing, but I cut my radish into matchsticks instead of chunks or half-moons, so that I could fish them upright out of the jar and snack on them like carrot sticks. (Cutting them this way also makes them ideal for rolling into sushi. But that’s another post for another day.)
I do want to offer a couple words of caution. First, the brine for these pickles is very sticky, and it will stain things. I would recommend using a glass measuring cup or a ladle to get the brine into the jars, and possibly doing it over the sink if you’re really klutzy, like me. Second, daikon radish is one of those vegetables that produces a lot of sulfurous compounds as it pickles. In other words, this stuff smells. Strongly. It’s not really evident until you open the jar, so keep your radishes tightly sealed in the fridge and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Pickled Daikon Radish (makes 2 pints)
Adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen
Note: These pickles are supposed to be fairly sweet, but you can adjust the sugar up or down a bit depending on your personal preference. Daikon radishes also vary in flavor–some are sweeter and milder than others–so you may want to use a little more or less sugar to compensate.
1 lb daikon radish (about 1 medium radish)
1-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
1 cup water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
3/4 – 1 cup granulated sugar, as needed (see note)
1/4 tsp turmeric
Special equipment: 2 pint canning jars
Trim and peel the daikon radish, then cut into 1/2-inch-wide matchsticks. The sticks should be just long enough to fit upright inside your jars, with about 1/2 inch of space at the top. Distribute the ginger slices between the jars. Pack the daikon sticks into the jars on top of the ginger–you want them fairly tightly packed, but not so tightly that they get crushed. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, and turmeric. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and ladle into the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Tap the jars gently on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles, then cover tightly and let cool to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer the jars to the refrigerator.
The pickles will be ready to eat after 48 hours in the fridge, and will be fully pickled and colored after about 1 week. (The turmeric may settle to the bottom, which is fine.) They’ll last in the fridge for about 1 month, getting more and more strongly radish-flavored over time.