The Gringa’s Guide To The Mexican Kitchen: Mexican Pickled Vegetables

Back in the old days, like when my mom was younger, it wasn’t uncommon to go into a restaurant and find a dish or two or pickled vegetables on the table for garnishing your meal. Perhaps it would be a bowl of homemade dills or a dish of pickled beets. You’d take a few for your Reuben sandwich, and the restaurant would replenish as needed for the next customer–but they didn’t change out the dish. Pickles are made with vinegar, which is a natural disinfectant, so you probably weren’t at much risk for catching anything from someone else’s grubby paws in the bowl.  My mother has often recounted her fond memories of devouring whatever pickled delights might be found on a restaurant table, and lamenting that this practice (with the advent of stricter food safety laws) has fallen out of favor in our country.

Despair no more. If you’re looking for a restaurant where you can get the complementary communal dish of pickled vegetables, look to Mexico. For better or for worse, food safety guidelines there are a little more, shall we say, relaxed. But you aren’t going to find your traditional deli-style pickles or beets. This is Mexico, not New York. What you will find is a semi-spicy, totally tangy blend of veggies like jalapeños, carrots, onions, garlic, and the occasional cauliflower floret.

Mexican pickles are easy to make and a treat to eat. This is a fantastic recipe to have in your summer arsenal when you have more jalapeños that you can possibly put into a salsa.

Mexican Pickled Vegetables

Recipe adapted from: No Recipes

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons kosher salt (not iodized table salt!)

2 teaspoons whole peppercorns

6-8 jalapeno peppers, sliced into 1/4″ wheels*

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ wheels

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into wedges

6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled

Apple cider vinegar, as needed

*Note: for a less spicy version, remove jalapeño seeds and pith.

Put all the ingredients in a large stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Continue boiling until the jalapenos have gone from a vivid green to an earthy olive green and the carrots have softened (should not be mushy). Turn off the heat and allow the pickled vegetables to cool.

Once cool, put the finished product into a large mason jar with a lid, or reuse a clean pickle jar. If liquid does not cover the vegetables, top off with a bit of apple cider vinegar. Pickles may be extra salty immediately after cooking. Let them sit a day or so in the refrigerator. They can be stored for several weeks.

What Can You Do With Your Mexican Pickles?

  • Eat them straight out of the jar.
  • Garnish tacos, nachos, and other Mexican dishes
  • Pair with small pieces of tangy Pecorino Romano cheese for a simple, yet tasty hors d’oeuvre. Excellent with a semi-fruity white wine.

3 Responses to “The Gringa’s Guide To The Mexican Kitchen: Mexican Pickled Vegetables”

  1. August 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    YUMMMMM! I MUST try this recipe!

  2. 2 Side Stitches
    August 31, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    These were delicious when you brought them over. My jalapenos are probably going bad in my fridge since I didn’t get to this yet, but I’ll certainly remember this for next year!

    • August 31, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      Oh sad. I just made another batch last weekend and added those banana peppers from the CSA. It made a delightfully large quantity–I will bring some over next time we dine together :)

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