Pickles have always been hard to buy in Mexico. Because Mexicans don’t buy pickles, Mexicans make pickles.
When I first arrived in San Miguel de Allende, the only place for sour pickles in town was a shop on Ancha de San Antonio whose name I can’t remember (comment please if you remember) that used to import “exotic” foods from the United States like peanut butter and puff pastry.
Mini-Market was our next supplier. They were and still are on the other side of the street just after it becomes Salida a Celaya. They took orders for your pickles then drove up to Texas to purchase them.
In recent years, I’ve been able to buy both dills and mixed pickles at Luna de Queso, Bonanza, Soriano, Costco and La Comer. But never reliably. And hardly ever economically.
So we started to make our own. Or I should say she started to make her own. Don Day’s wife tried a few recipes. They were good but they just weren’t quite good enough.
Then one night we were at a dinner where chef Mark Tamiso was serving porchetta. And with the porchetta he was serving pickles. And these were the best pickles I had ever tasted in this town. These were pickles that reminded me of the pickles served on muffuletas in New Orleans. And those were the best pickles I had ever eaten.
I asked Mark where he bought the pickles. “I didn’t”, he told me, “I made the pickles”.
I asked Mark if he would make some for us, knowing that if you ask anything of Mark Tamiso that concerns food, he does not know the word “no”. And he did make them. And they were just as good as before. So good that soon they were all gone. And I wanted more. But I knew that would be going to the well once too often.
So this time I asked Mark for the recipe and perhaps some photos of the ingredients and the pickling process. That way you and I could enjoy Mark’s pickles. And of course Mark said “yes” which brings us to the following:
MARK TAMISO’s SOUR (and a little spicy) PICKLE RECIPE (makes three litres)
1 head of cauliflower
1 red onion
1 white onion
2 red bell peppers
2 orange bell peppers
1 bunch celery
5 jalapeño peppers
6 cloves of garlic (roasted)
3 yellow Anaheim peppers
1 small jar of pimento-stuffed olives
1 small jar of marinated mushrooms
2 cups of rice wine vinegar
1 cup of olive oil
2 tbsp pickling spices
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
Jars for storage (Mark uses old coffee jars that were purchased at Bonanza).
Place all of the first group of ingredients except the marinated mushrooms and pimento olives in a pot and cover with salted cold water.
Refrigerate for 24 hours. Rinse thoroughly, add the mushrooms and pimento olives and spoon and pack the vegetables into glass jars. To ensure that the pickles are not too spicy hot, make sure the jalapeños are evenly distributed throughout the jars.
Heat until hot (but not boiling) the oil, rice wine vinegar and spices in a half liter of water. Pour into the jars to 1/4 inch from the top and let sit on the counter for three hours to settle. Add more liquid if needed to top up the storage jars.
Cover the jars and refrigerate. The pickles will be ready to eat in two days. After two weeks they will be even better.
If you would like to preserve the pickles for a longer period, you could can them in Mason jars and process in a hot water bath.
Mark Tamiso is an almost retired chef who is available to cater small but special lunches or dinners in your home. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.