Pimento, as allspice is known in Jamaica, is the berry of a Caribbean myrtle tree (Pimenta diocia). It’s one of the few spices native to the new world and—in the US, anyway—is often included in baked desserts. Those who know it in cocktails, however, or in the cooking outside the US understand its savory role well. In fact, it’s responsible for the characteristic taste of Jamaican jerked chicken and pork, and can be found in sauerkraut, ham brines, pickled fish, jugged hare, picadillo, and Indian curries. I’ve also used it in shrimp ceviche and bread & butter bar eggs.
Here, I used a dose of it to oompf up our house pickles. If you don’t have any pimento dram on hand, you can either order some from Haus Alpenz here, substitute lightly toasted and barely cracked whole berries…or see Paul Clarke’s directions for making your own here at the Cocktail Chronicles.
Rowley’s House Pickles with Pimento Dram
(based on a recipe from Quick Pickles by Dan George)
Vegetables & Prep
3 lbs Kirbys or other small, thin-skinned pickling cucumbers
3 Tbl kosher salt
4 Tbl olive oil
1 lb mixed heirloom carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
3 bell peppers (red, yellow, orange) chopped into 1” chunks
1 large onion, peeled and chopped into 1” chunks
10 fat cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
Spiced Pickling Syrup
5 cups cider vinegar
3 cups brown sugar
2 Tbl Creole or Dijon mustard
1 Tbl each brown and yellow mustard seed
1 Tbl pimento dram OR 1 tsp dry toasted and cracked whole allspice berries
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp green cardamom pods
1 tsp whole cloves
1 4” cinnamon stick
4 bay leaves
Trim ends of cucumber and slice each into thick coins (about ½” thick). In a stainless steel or glass bowl, toss sliced cucumbers and salt. Mix gently but thoroughly. Refrigerate cucumbers and salt for 1-2 hours.
Drain and rinse the salted cucumbers under cold running water.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large non-reactive saucepan, then sauté the carrots, onion, garlic, and bell pepper pieces at medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to sweat and just begin to soften—about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a small frying pan, dry roast the mustard seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom pods, and allspice berries (if using) over medium high heat just until you hear the seeds begin to pop. Transfer to a medium nonreactive pot. Break the cinnamon and lightly toast it. Add it with the remaining syrup ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Add the cucumbers to the vegetables in the large saucepan. Toss gently to combine. Bring the pickling syrup back to a boil. Pack three large preserving jars with the vegetables. Add pimento dram (if using) to the syrup, pour the hot liquid over the vegetables, and seal the jars. Set the jars aside to cool. Once cool, refrigerate.
Yield: slightly less than 1 US gallon/4 liters