Pickles, kimchi, toursi: all names for one of the oldest known preparations. Pickles are a culinary tradition almost all over the world, thanks to the fact that it is one of the earliest methods of preserving food. Toursi then, is the Greek name, let’s find out more.
Whether as a meze or as a side dish to various legume dishes, toursi is a delicacy that always accompanies the meals of Greeks.
The origins of the name toursi are Persian, and in the Iranian language it means precisely “pickles.” Their history also originates in the very area of Mesopotamia where vinegar was used to preserve foods due to the hot climate during travel.
Among the first foods to be used as pickles are thought to have been cucumbers, brought in seed form by nomads from India. To this day all over the world, the term pickle makes one immediately think of gherkins, thanks to the success the food has had on American soil.
How to pickle
There are two basic methods of preparation, either with brine or with vinegar. In each case pickles are recognized for their great dietary and beneficial properties, being fermented foods, thus loaded with probiotics, and with anti-inflammatory qualities.
Also they greatly ease digestion. Be careful, however: if you consume them for their health benefits, you should avoid supermarket products. This is because most products on the shelf have undergone a pasteurization process to allow longer storage, which automatically neutralizes all the probiotics present.
Anyone with Greek roots has heard at least once the word “τσιπουρομεζέδες” (tsipouromezèdes), which denotes all those little preparations that serve as the framework of those small mezes that usually precede dinner or lunch.
The main protagonist, however, is tsipouro, or precisely, ouzo: the most important spirit in Greek culture.
Vegetable, meat or fish dishes may be eaten along with tsipouro, but there is certainly no shortage of “τουρσι,” pickles. With their sour and spicy flavor, they are the perfect accompaniment to the enveloping taste of Greek liqueurs.
The most common pickles in Greece
You can find many different versions of pickles, with different types of vegetables.
The most common are cucumbers, carrots, onions, cauliflower, olives and cabbage.
If you want to try something more unique, less common among all countries that use pickles in their cuisine, there is stuffed eggplant. By choosing the smallest eggplants, and making a cut lengthwise, you will create a pocket that can be filled with other chopped vegetables: peppers, garlic, carrots and celery. All of this, indeed, pickled, creates a very unique and tasty mix of flavors.
However, there is an even more particular toursi recommended by Greek chefs: sea fennel.
These are plants that grow on the cliffs by the sea. They are delicious even on their own, thanks to their iodine-laden flavor, but pickled… simply spectacular.
All nice and interesting, but how do you make toursi? Well, follow the recipe and you will never worry about buying them again.
Homemade Greek toursi
- 200gr white wine vinegar
- 100gr water
- 6gr salt
- 2gr sugar
First you need to sterilize the glass jars, to prevent the bacteria inside from damaging the food and interfering with the natural fermentation process.
In a pot put the caps and jars, cover with cold water and bring everything to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, after which remove from the water, and let them cool upside down on a clean cloth. As soon as they are cold, they are ready to use.
Place your favorite vegetables, cut as you like, in a glass jar, along with your favorite flavorings: rosemary, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaf, dill etc… In a small saucepan bring all the ingredients (vinegar, water, sugar and salt) to a boil. Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, remove from the heat.
Pour the still hot mixture into the jars and cover everything, seal with cap, and put everything in a dark, room-temperature place. Some Greek chefs recommend that you put a crumpled piece of plastic wrap on top, before sealing with the cap: this will make sure that all the ingredients stay in the liquid, and it will prevent any mold creation.
Let at least 5 days pass before consuming the pickles, so that the flavors can intensify.