Pikliz (Haitian Pickled Relish)

Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight
We knew when we decided to go to New Orleans that, at the very least, we would eat well on the trip. And, we were not disappointed. However, our favorite meal was a bit of a surprise.

Anytime I travel, I do the research on where to stay, what to see, and certainly where to eat. Eater.com is one of my favorite destinations for food info. It is where I stumbled upon a recommendation for a Haitian place in the Treme neighborhood that sounded great. And, it was certainly something new.

I, to my knowledge, had never had the opportunity to try Haitian food, so I had no expectations whatsoever. I think ultimately that is what made the meal such a revelation to both of us. It was a surprise. With the other restaurants, we kind of knew what to expect. But, at Fritai, we were in uncharted waters.

I had the pork Griyo, my husband went with the chicken creole. Both were excellent. But, what sent us thru the roof was the Pikliz that was served with all of it.

Pronounced PEE-kleez, it is essentially a Haitian coleslaw or relish…but it packs a punch. This stuff is spicy. But, it hurts so good. The heat comes from little orange scotch bonnet chilies that my husband thought were bell peppers. To be fair, there were bell peppers in the pikliz, but they weren’t the only peppers. As a lover of all things coleslaw, he took a big bite…and needed a lot of water. The problem was that it tasted so good that you could not stop eating it. We had it on grilled shrimp with avocado, the creole chicken, and, of course, the pork. Just so good.

It should come as no surprise that I now have a new obsession with Haitian cooking and have started my quest to learn how to make traditional Haitian food. Yes, cookbooks have been ordered but there are not as many out there as you might think.

Finding a Pikliz recipe was fairly easy. Now that BBQ season is in full swing, I encourage you to give this relish a try at your next backyard feast. Just make sure to warn your people that those aren’t just bell peppers!

Pikliz Recipe
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 4 cups

About 1/4 of a large green cabbage
1 medium carrot
1 large shallot
6 Scotch bonnet peppers, stemmed
3 sprigs thyme
8 whole cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups (or more) distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh key lime (or regular lime) juice

Prep the vegetables
Thinly slice the cabbage and cut it crosswise two to three times for shorter shreds. You should end up with 2-1/2 cups. Julienne or grate the carrots (about one cup). Thinly slice the shallots (about 1/2 cup). And, quarter the Scotch bonnet peppers.

Assemble the pickle
Mix the vegetables with the thyme cloves, and salt. Then pack them into a 1-1/2 quart resealable jar. Add the vinegar and lime juice, seal the jar, and shake it until the salt is dissolved. Add more vinegar if needed to just cover vegetables.

Chill for at least three days before serving, shaking the jar gently twice daily.

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