Spud Sunday: Mexican Fave

Tequila Mockingbird Cake

Tequila Mockingbird Cake:
a coconut tres leches (3 milks) cake with chilli caramel shards, pipettes of tequila, lime and cardamom bitters, plus toasted coconut crunchies coated in dark chocolate with dehydrated lime zest dust.
Made by Kate Packwood of Wild Flour Bakery and every bit as stunning as it sounds.

You’d have to admire a food culture that can inspire something like the Tequila Mockingbird Cake (and if you’re wondering just which culture that might be, the tequila is a rather large clue).

This very Mexican dessert – as interpreted by the exceptionally talented Kate Packwood of Wild Flour Bakery – featured at an equally Mexican party hosted by Lily Ramirez-Foran to mark the re-launch, this week, of her Mexican Cook blog. There was molé, there were margaritas and, given the current heat wave, there was even a bit of Mexican weather too. More to the point, though, there were pickled potatoes.

Jars of pickled potatoes

Pickled Potatoes. Made by me.

Now, potatoes aren’t exactly a common choice for pickling, for reasons which, I guess, may be both historical and practical: given sufficiently cool conditions, raw potatoes can be stored for a considerable length of time without having to apply special preservation techniques – so in many cases, the need to pickle, salt or otherwise preserve may not have arisen – and potatoes, particularly those high in dry matter, once cooked, will tend to disintegrate and would simply go to mush in a pickling solution. The one notable traditional technique for long-term preservation of potatoes is that of freeze-drying raw tubers to make chuño, as practised in the high Andes, with nary a drop of vinegar involved.

My researches on the pickling matter had lead me to conclude that Mexico was, in fact, one of the few places where pickled potatoes were “a thing” and, in discussing same with Lily last month at her Mexican food stall in the Honest To Goodness market, I discovered that her soon-to-be-visiting Mexican mama was, in fact, a maker of such pickles. Not long afterward, I watched as Lily sat down with her mother, querying the ways of her pickled potatoes, translating and scribbling instructions for me as the details were recalled, not in an orderly series of steps, but in a series of asides and by-the-ways, by one for whom the practice of pickling potatoes was entirely second nature. I, for my part, went forth and pickled, and while the results don’t have the dazzle of a tequila-crowned cake, they do carry their own little bit of Mexican spirit.

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Pickled Potatoes

This is my interpretation of the instructions from Lily’s mother, though her directions were much looser than what you see below (and constitute only one of a number of ways in which she pickles potatoes). I’ve included the proportions I used but, really, the relative amounts (and varieties) of vegetables to include are up to you – basically use whatever vegetables you like and prepare enough vinegar to just cover them.

It’s a basic, straight-up vinegar pickle and, depending on how long you leave it, the vegetables can become quite sharply pickled (think classic pickled onions). As such, a small amount can provide a piquant accent to a strong cheddar or a good piece of ham or you could, say, dice a few pickled potatoes and use them to spruce up a potato, egg or other salad.

Pickled potatoes

The style of preparation is to partially cook the vegetables first, cool and then cover with garlic-infused cider vinegar – and certainly for the potatoes, you do need to cook them – but I imagine that other vegetables could be simply salted to remove excess liquid, and then pickled. In either case, do use a good quality cider vinegar that you like.

What is important is that the potatoes are not fall apart floury types (and baby potatoes, which is what the recipe calls for, will, almost by definition, be firmer of texture anyway). Use the babiest potatoes you can get and leave them whole and unpeeled. I did cut some of my potatoes in half to get evenly-sized pieces for cooking, but preferred the results using whole potatoes, which did not become as strongly pickled. If your potatoes are quite variable in size, then I would suggest, for initial cooking, that instead of halving bigger potatoes, that you add them to the cooking water in stages, giving larger potatoes a couple of minutes more.

The Summary:

  • Makes enough for approx. 3 x 500ml jars of pickle & takes approx. 2 hours to prep + 2 or more weeks to mature

You’ll need:

  • 700ml cider vinegar
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and whole, but lightly crushed
  • 500g baby potatoes
  • 300g carrots
  • 1 medium onion (approx. 150g)
  • 3+ tblsp fresh oregano leaves
  • salt

You’ll also need:

  • Jars to accommodate a combined capacity of around 1.5l of pickle, plus non-corrosive lids

The Steps:

  • To prepare the jars and lids, turn your oven on to 140C, wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and sterilise, either by boiling in water for 10 minutes and then drying in the oven or just by keeping the jars in the oven for at least 30 minutes before using. Once sterlised, allow the jars to cool. To sterilise the lids, dip in boiling water and allow to dry.
  • Add the cider vinegar to a nonreactive saucepan along with the cloves of garlic. Place over a medium heat until the vinegar just starts to bubble, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Scrub the baby potatoes and leave them whole and unpeeled. Peel the carrots and cut into chunks around the same thickness as your potatoes. Slice the onion thickly.
  • Bring about 1l of salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the potatoes and carrots, bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until just barely cooked through, but still firm. Drain completely, reserving the boiling liquid, and allow to cool.
  • Pour the reserved boiling liquid over the sliced onion and leave for 3-4 minutes to soften, then drain.
  • When the vinegar has cooled, add salt to taste.
  • Distribute the potatoes, carrots and onions amongst your prepared jars, along with some fresh oregano leaves, pour over the vinegar so that it covers the vegetables and comes to within about 3mm of the top of each jar (you can discard the garlic or add to the jars as you prefer). Seal and store in a cool, dark place for 2 or more weeks to allow the flavours to develop.

The Variations:

  • As noted previously, the amounts and types of vegetables used here can be varied according to what you have and what you like. You could also try different vinegars – I hear that Lily’s mother also pickles potatoes using rice wine vinegar, which is something I intend to try.
R☆51
Comments
  • I laugh a lot as I read this post Aoife, finally someone has documented the pain I go through every time I asked my mother for one of her recipes! Totally convinced that this is what the Big British Bake Off technical challenges are! a few by the ways, you know what I means and very lose instructions! Lovely mention of the blog, thank you and I know my mama will be delighted you made the tatoes! :)

  • It was such a pleasure (and very lucky timing) to be able to meet your mother and get the recipe Lily – however loose the instructions! Delighted I made the pickles too and will definitely be experimenting more with them in future.

  • Lovely mention of the blog on The Daily Spud and my mama’s wonderful recipe sharing skills! Mary Berry and Paul… http://t.co/JspgCgpHSB

  • RT @DailySpud: Pickled potatoes, with thanks to @MexicanCookEire & her Mexican mama, plus a rather spiffing cake from @WildFlourKate http:/…

  • They sound really delicious! So sorry to have missed the party. :)

  • They’re certainly worth a go if you like classic pickles Margaret. And it was a lovely party alright – Lily & Alan are great hosts and the margaritas from the dedicated margarita bar were dangerously easy to drink!

  • RT @DailySpud: Pickled potatoes, with thanks to @MexicanCookEire & her Mexican mama, plus a rather spiffing cake from @WildFlourKate http:/…

  • RT @DailySpud: Pickled potatoes, with thanks to @MexicanCookEire & her Mexican mama, plus a rather spiffing cake from @WildFlourKate http:/…

  • Careful spud, you’re treading close to some disparaging Irish stereo types some sensitive ego’s could be bruised. We all know your interests are only in the elevation of the humble spud.I, however, love the opportunity to have a bit of fun with pickled potatoes. Pickled Mexican potatoes, Pickled Irish potatoes, or pickled potato eaters. Though my choice of pickling juice would be a bit different.
    Cheers,
    Brian.

  • ‘Tis true Brian that, just as there are many ways to skin a cat, there are many ways to pickle a potato (and many choices of pickling juice) – I just hope you don’t get too pickled in the process :)

  • My goodness that is creative and does sound amazing. I can image what it would taste like. Heaven on a plate.

  • The cake was quite something Bintu (at least I assume you’re talking about the cake and not the pickles :D) – and it certainly tasted just as good as it looked

  • Wow, I would never, ever thought you can pickle potatoes – mind blown! Thanks for the tip!

  • Well I guess it’s true Riitta, you do learn something new every day!

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  • Wow I didn’t know that you could pickle potatoes.
    But I don’t really understand what the Mexicans do with them?
    You mentioned where you added them, but what do they do?
    What do they taste like? potatoey?
    Intrigued!

  • Hi Karin! To be honest, until I tried it, I didn’t really know that you could pickle them either. My impression is that the Mexicans use them as you might other pickles, as a condiment or side to other dishes. Just like pickled onions, they take up the flavour of the vinegar / pickling liquid – so the taste, depending on how long you leave them, is more vinegary than potatoey.

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