Pickles are a great way to add an acidic bite to any meal. The tartness helps cut through the taste of richer foods. Many vegetables are good candidates and Jicama is one of my favorites.
Pachyrhizus erosus, commonly known as jícama (/ˈhɪkəmə/) from Nahuatl- xīcamatl, Mexican yam bean, or Mexican turnip, is the name of a native Mexican vine. Wikipedia
The plant is classified as a bean although the beans themselves are poisonous. Only the tuberous root is edible. It has a slightly sweet flavor but is really about the crisp texture.
Jicama has a crunchy texture like a raw potato or apple and can be eaten raw or cooked. It is commonly eaten raw with salt, lime and chile powder. While I do eat it just that way, Jicama makes a great pickle. Even with a quick pickle, it lasts in the fridge for a long time and is great for snacking or as an addition to sandwiches as well. If you do put it on a sandwich though, it is a good idea to put it on the bottom since it has a very firm texture that is not lost through the quick pickle process. Thinner slices than used here would be better for that purpose.
Jicama has a papery skin that can be easily removed with a vegetable peeler. If that is your method, you should definitely use at least 3 strokes because under the peal is a very fibrous layer that is not so pleasant to eat. If you use a sharp knife you can take more of the skin off to reach the more edible insides.
Like other root vegetables, Jicama is very hard and care needs to be taken with a sharp knife. If you have a heavy cleaver use that to make your first cut. The deep blade can be helpful if you have to use a second hand to get it cut in half. This particular example had been sitting on my counter for several weeks and was so hard I had to use a mallet on the back of my knife to get through the thing. I need to sharpen that knife.
Once peeled and halved, cut the Jicama into baton shapes, you know, rectangles. I like to keep it fairly thick myself, but I have sliced it thinly as well. Once you have broken down the Jicama to your chosen size, make the brine.
I used several different vinegars for this brine. First the Mango flavored rice vinegar which I will not buy again. It has a sweetness that is not good for regular use but mixed it works O.K. in this. Next I add a Sugarcane juice vinegar (Sukang Iloco) from the Phillipines. It has a nice light flavor although the color is dark. I think I’m making ugly food again.
You really can use any vinegar or several of your choice. I am a vinegar lover and have perhaps 6 or 7 varieties in my cupboards.
Half rice vinegar and half cane juice vinegar go into a small pot on the stove and I add both salt and a bit of sugar. I use as much water as total vinegar and heat just enough to help dissolve the salt and sugar. Once dissolved, I pour the brine over the Jicama in a mayonnaise jar. Then I add one bay leaf, two peeled garlic cloves and one Japonaise dried chile. Other spices can be added, but I favor the simple approach here. Let the jar cool on the counter until room temperature, cap tightly and into the cold box for at least 24 hours for best flavor.
- Half of medium Jicama cut into batons
- 1 Japonaise or other dried chile
- 2 Garlic cloves
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- Total 1/2 cup vinegar(s) of choice
- 1/2 cup water
- Peel Jicama and cut to desired shape
- Heat vinegar(s) and water in small pan
- Add salt and sugar and stir to dissolve
- Put Jicama into glass container
- Add chile, bay leaf, and garlic
- Pour brine into jar
- Add just enough water to cover if necessary
- Rest on counter until room temperature
- Refrigerate at least 24 hours
- Eat pickles with just about anything