Take a cup of white vinegar, a bay leaf, peppercorns, some salt, sugar and the vegetable of your choice – we like the flavour and colour in julienned carrots, rounds of cucumbers and slivers of blush-pink or bullseye radishes – and you have an uplifting addition to any summer menu. But add pulled duck to a pancake, then pineapple and herbs to the pickled carrots, as they do at Mama’s Buoi in Sydney and Melbourne, then it’s a whole new ballgame.
Fermenting vegetables is a great way to store seasonal produce and you also get increased vitamin and mineral absorption and add to it a good dose of probiotic goodness and flavour, too. Rob Cockerill’s roasted Tasmanian octopus at Sydney icon restaurant Bennelong, is paired with charred pickled cucumber, verjuice lime aioli and salty ice plant while the current menu at Chris Thornton’s Restaurant Mason in Newcastle features current favourite Korean kimchi, served with Coquon Farm suckling pig, king crab, apple, fennel and baby carrots.
Sydney best mates Joel Mevissen and Calvin Lidden meanwhile have made a business out of Westmont Pickles, which are on the menu at a number of Australia’s best restaurants, pubs and cafés.
Sydney’s Cornersmith cafes owner Alex Elliott-Howery and Mikey Hilburger from Brisbane’s Picklehead Pickles, both offer DIY masterclasses in the art of pickling and fermentation.
Meanwhile, curing comes in many forms, from a simple salmon with salt and sugar, vodka and beetroot, a la Justin North, the recently departed head Chef from the Centennial Hotel in Woollahra, Sydney, to a citrus cure, served with yuzu gel, avocado puree, red vein sorrel, soda bread crumb and salmon crackling at Hobart’s Restaurant Tasman. It also offers a cured duck breast salad with rhubarb, pink peppercorns, sour cream and bulgur wheat. In-house cured duck breast is also on winemaker Stefano Lubiano’s Osteria, in Granton on the Derwent in Tassie, where all bases are covered with a melt-in-the-mouth beef tongue dish matched with pickled beans.