Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pickled Apple & Carrot Relish:
An Autumn-Inspired Take on a Filipino Classic

Atsara [ahtchah-ra] is a classic Filipino appetizer/condiment that normally consists of pickled green papaya, carrots, ginger, red bell pepper, onion, and raisins.  Served alongside grilled, fried, or barbecued meat, the acidity and brightness is perfect for cutting through the richness of any dish and keeping the palate lively.  As a child, and even into my young adult years, I was never really a fan of pickled anything.  But my Mother, on the other hand, loved pickles.  Cucumbers with white vinegar and sugar was one of her favorite afternoon snacks, and for dessert, she was fond of eating fresh fruit, especially pears, with balsamic vinegar.  [cue flashback to child me wrinkling his nose]

And regarding atsara, she loved it so much that she kept a huge jar (bigger than my head) in the downstairs refrigerator.  Every once in a while, I would be charged with lugging it up the stairs, her constant caution to "make sure to hold it with both hands" ringing in my ears.  At the time, I couldn't quite wrap my head around how one could find the flurry of sour, sweet, and spicy enjoyable. 

But now, I totally get it.

Pickled bamboo shoots with pineapple.

Pickled daikon, saluyot greens, carrot, and ginger.

In fact, during my latest visit to the Philippines, I made it a point to learn as much as I could about Filipino quick pickles, not only on how they're prepared, but also how ingredients and flavors differed from region to region, island to island.  Tasting all of them took my tastebuds on a wonderful adventure and really gave me the opportunity to appreciate the many ways in which a good pickle can heighten and elevate a meal.

So, naturally, upon returning home to a bounty of Fall fruits and vegetables, I was immediately inspired to apply my new found knowledge to an easy and unexpected side dish to serve at your next Holiday gathering.  With fried turkey, roasted duck, or tofurky, atop mashed potatoes or salad greens, or on a hot dog or enchilada, this recipe is sure to raise some eyebrows in the best way possible.

Atsara-Style Apple & Carrot Relish
Gluten-Free, Vegan, & Raw

Active Prep Time:  5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time:  at least 1 day
Cooking Time:  none
Yield:  about 2 cups

1 large firm apple (e.g., Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji), cored and diced
1 medium carrot, grated
1/2 c red onion, sliced thinly
1 in knob ginger, finely minced
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 c unsweetened raisins
1/2 teaspoon sliced serrano pepper (optional)

1/2 c raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 c warm filtered water
1/4 c raw coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

What you'll need:  liquid measuring cup, small non-metal mixing bowl with lid/cover

1.  Combine fruits and vegetables in mixing bowl.  I love the warmth of the serrano behind the sour sweetness, but if it's not your thing, feel free to reduce the amount or leave it out altogether.
2.  Combine vinegar, warm water, sugar, and salt.  Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved.  (Note: If either raw coconut sugar or pink salt are not available, you can use a light brown sugar or any finer grain un-iodized sea salt).
3.  Pour pickling solution over fruits and vegetables and mix.  Cover and refrigerate for at least a day.
4.  You'll notice that the onions will have turned pink and the apples will have taken on a very light brown color.  You may worry that this is from oxidation, but it is in fact from the coconut sugar.  Keep refrigerated and covered and enjoy within two weeks.

The vibrant energy of local, organic carrots.



After experimenting with different vegetables to create different riffs on atsara in the Philippines, I was intrigued with the idea of pickling apples.  I wasn't positive that it would work, but I was truly excited to give it a try.  And upon tasting it, it was above and beyond better than anything I had made during my trip - actually, better than any atsara, period, that I had tasted - a pay off that certainly inspired a proud papa dance or two.  Evocative of both Autumn and childhood memories, the crisp sweetness and texture really hits it out of the park for me, and now I look for any excuse to add this quick pickle to every meal.

From someone who was once intimidated at the thought of making pickles, I was taken aback by how simple and adaptable the process can be.  And while I am far from an expert, the success of this experiment is definitely encouraging, and I hope it might do the same for you.

As we hurtle towards Thanksgiving, stay tuned for more recipes to enliven and diversify your Holiday spread.

Did I mention that I love cooking during this time of year?


  1. This looks great. Want to try it over the Thanksgiving Holidays. Do you have a recipe for a pickle cabbage and onion. I forget the name of the cabbage but not regular American and not a traditional Bok Choy. it is like a Bok Choy but only slightly rounder and you can get it at MT Markets at times.

    1. I hope you will try it, Nanette! And re: the cabbage you are referring to, is it different from Napa? Very ruffled and tight leafed? You have reminded me that is has been too long since I've been to MT. :)

  2. I think you finally made something I am clueless about! No one in my family ever made anything pickled (with the exception of pickled mango) and I love pickled foods! We go through spurts of making Japanese quick pickles. Definitely trying this. :D


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