Ravishing Radishes Part 3: Radish Pickles

by Megg

Happy Friday, and welcome to the third and final installment of my series of “ravishing” radish recipes!  If you’re keeping score, there were sautéed radishes with thyme-garlic bread in Part 1 and a bento-friendly recipe for furikake made from radish greens in Part 2.  Here, in Part 3, is a recipe for quick radish pickles, which also happen to be wonderfully suited for bento lunches!

Like the furikake, I found the recipe for these beautiful radish pickles at Just Bento, one of my very favorite bento sites.  Just in case, I’d like to point out that these are the Japanese kind of pickles (I think a lot of Americans, including myself when I was younger, think of cucumbers when they hear the term “pickle,” but of course it’s a reference to the process; pickled cucumbers just happen to be the most frequently encountered and used in the U.S.).
This kind of pickling is also different than the kind that involves lots of time, sterilization, and equipment.  These are often referred to as “instant” pickles, although this recipe needs to sit overnight.  But you get the idea.. they’re pretty quick, all things considered.  (In fact, my very first post was a recipe for this kind of pickle!)

The recipe calls for strawberry syrup, which I didn’t have.  Maki points out that you can use honey, but the red color of the syrup will help boost the color of the radishes.  You can make strawberry syrup from scratch, but I couldn’t find any good-looking strawberries.  I also searched for pre-made strawberry syrup, but had a hard time finding it.  When I did come across some, it was basically just sugar water with food coloring, and some kind of artificial strawberry flavoring.  No thanks!  I decided to try and make my own using strawberry jam.  I chose a reduced-sugar variety (with some natural sugar added, but not as much as most varieties).  After a few tries, I finally got a syrupy consistancy that I was happy with.  At the end of the pickle recipe is a recipe for making syrup this way, it you choose.  If you can find good strawberries though, it’s probably way easier to make it from those (just search for a recipe and you’ll find a ton).

The recipe also uses ume vinegar (which comes from the process of making umeboshi, which are pickled ume plums).  I’ve been wanting to get some of this for a while now, and I went to a nearby market (which is mostly Korean, but with a lot of Japanese items in stock).  They had a ton of vinegar varieties (I saw a persimmon vinegar that I want to buy sometime soon!) but no ume.  I was able to finally get the ume vinegar at a local co-op store.  If you don’t have a Japanese market near you, or if your local Asian store doesn’t have it, check out natural food stores.

As with the other two recipes I posted this week, I made these pickles using French breakfast radishes.  It’s probably best to use these if you can find them (it’s also the variety Maki uses in her recipe) but perhaps you could use other kinds.  The flavor (and appearance) will be different though.

Radish Pickles
—adapted from Just Bento
  • 20-30 radishes (depending on size), washed and trimmed, greens removed
  • 1 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
  • 3/4 cup ume vinegar
  • 1/4 cup strawberry syrup (see recipe below) OR honey
1. In a medium bowl, mix rice vinegar, ume vinegar, and strawberry syrup together until well blended.

2. Take the cleaned, trimmed radishes and slice each in half lengthwise.  Arrange the radishes in a non-reactive dish (i.e. nothing iron or aluminum; I used a glass baking dish).

3.  Pour the liquid mix over the radishes until they are all covered.  Cover the dish well (plastic wrap works perfectly) and place in the refrigerator.  Let them sit overnight before eating.

After they sit overnight, you can enjoy your radish pickles!  They are a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, and have a nice tangy flavor.  As I said, they are just great in bentos, but are an addictive snack as well.  They’ll keep in the fridge for about a week.

Here’s the recipe I created for strawberry jam-based strawberry syrup (read what I wrote above about your options before you make this though!)

Strawberry Syrup (the unconventional way..)
  • 1 cup strawberry preserves/jam (reduced sugar is preferable if you can find it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
1. Whisk the preserves, lemon juice, and water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking frequently.  Let the mixture boil (watching it to make sure it doesn’t bubble over) until it thickens slightly, about 4 minutes.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer, whisking occasionally, until you achieve a syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes.

3. When the syrup is the consistency you desire, strain the mixture, and let cool.  Once cool, your syrup is ready to use.

(Again, it’s a bit unconventional (I kinda felt like I was making “reverse jam”), but it worked for me!)

Well, that’s it for radishes (at least for now.. hehe..).  Hope you enjoyed the trio!  I love comments, so be sure to let me know if you try any of these recipes, or if you have another favorite radish recipe of your own!  Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

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