I’m fortunate enough to be able to walk to Shem Creek (in Mt. Pleasant, just over the bridge from Charleston) to get fresh wild-caught shrimp straight off the docks. During the summer shrimp season, I try to do this at least once a week. Even if I don’t eat the shrimp right away (which is hard to do when they are so fresh and juicy), I can freeze them for those sad winter months when fresh is not available. I also regularly make a big jar of Pickled Shrimp to keep in the fridge, perfect for when you need a quick snack or meal and have no desire to turn on the stove in the summer heat!
Pickled Shrimp, or Sea Island Shrimp as they are often called, are a staple of Southern cuisine appearing at both cocktail parties in a dressed-up bowl or on a picnic table with toothpicks. The shrimp get their tangy and spicy pickled taste from a nice long bath in an oil and vinegar marinade that is full of herbs, spices, and aromatics. The list of ingredients in a Pickled Shrimp recipe may look a little daunting, but the dish comes together very quickly. And then if the shrimp are kept covered by the oil and vinegar in a jar, they will last for over a week in the fridge developing more delicious pickly taste the longer they soak.
You can certainly eat Pickled Shrimp straight out of the jar, plucking them out with your fingers or a long fork just like you would eat peel-and-eat shrimp. Or you can use them as the basis for many no-cook easy summer recipes. One of the best ways to use Pickled Shrimp is on top of a Warm Butterbean and Country Ham Salad, using the pickling liquid itself as a bright and summery dill-lemon dressing. Or I also love to layer the cold shrimp between slices of refreshing watermelon and grilled salty Halloumi cheese for my take on a caprese salad. Add a drizzle of Blackberry Patch Blueberry Syrup if you want to add a little sweetness too.
But the best part is that no matter how you like to eat Pickled Shrimp, the preparation is easy and effortless, just like summer should be in Charleston!
What’s your favorite way to eat Pickled Shrimp? Share with us in the comments!
Ingredients (makes 1/2 pound of pickled shrimp):
- 1/2 pound large local shrimp
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 5-6 parsley stems, with or without leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1 tablespoon caper juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon celery seed
- 1 tablespoon brown mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 small lemons, thinly sliced
- 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 4-5 large sprigs of dill
- 3-4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
- Rinse, peel and devein shrimp, keeping tails intact.
- Fill a 5-6 quart pot about two-thirds full of water. Add the 1/4 cup lemon juice, parsley stems, and 1 bay leaf to the water, and bring water to a simmer.
- Add the shrimp to the simmering water, and cook just until they turn pink, about 2-3 minutes.
- Remove shrimp from the water, and gently pat dry with paper towels.
- Combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice, vinegar, capers, caper juice, sugar, celery seed, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl, and whisk to combine.
- Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly to form the marinade.
- In a 1 quart Mason jar (or in a glass bowl or container), begin layering the ingredients: start with a layer of lemon slices, top with a layer of red onion, a sprig of dill, and then a layer of shrimp. Continue layering, lightly packing ingredients, and adding a clove of garlic every few layers. Slide the remaining bay leaf into the side of the container.
- Whisk the marinade again, and pour over the layers. Press on the layers so that they are completely covered with the oil and vinegar. Screw on the lid, and then gently shake the jar to settle the layers.
- Place the jar in the fridge, and let marinate for at least 4 hours. Or keep in the fridge for up to a week, shaking the jar every few days to keep the marinade from separating.
Warm Butterbean, Country Ham and Shrimp Salad
Ingredients (serves 4 as a first-course):
- 1 cup fresh butterbeans, or frozen baby lima beans
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup country ham, cut into julienne strips
- 2 cloves of garlic, grated or pressed
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- About 1/4 cup pickling liquid (be sure to shake the jar first before pouring out)
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 1 large lemon, cut into 8 wedges
- Pickled Shrimp, about 4-5 per person
- Place butterbeans in a small saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain butterbeans and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil to the pan.
- When the olive oil is hot, add the red onion to the pan. Saute until onion starts to brown.
- Add the country ham to the pan, and sauté until ham starts to brown.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook just until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the butterbeans to the pan, and stir to coat with the oil.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and add the pickling liquid, dill, and a squeeze of lemon. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, plus more lemon juice if desired.
- Serve the warm salad topped with the pickled shrimp, and garnish with more dill and a wedge of lemon.
Watermelon, Halloumi, and Pickled Shrimp Caprese Salad
Ingredients (serves 4 as an appetizer):
- 1 package Halloumi (see note below)
- Canola oil
- 1/4 cup Blackberry Patch Blueberry Syrup
- Splash of white wine vinegar
- 1/2 small baby seedless watermelon, cut into thin wedges
- Pickled Shrimp, about 2-3 per person
- Fresh Thai basil leaves
- 1 loaf baguette bread, sliced into rounds and toasted
- Preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat.
- Remove the halloumi from the package, rinse under cool water, and pat dry.
- Rub halloumi all over with canola oil.
- Place halloumi on the hot grill, and cook for about 2-3 minutes each side, just until grill marks and brown spots show. Don’t let cheese melt into the grates!
- Remove from the grill, and set aside.
- Place blueberry syrup in a small bowl, and add a splash of vinegar. Stir to combine.
- Layer the watermelon, Pickled Shrimp, grilled halloumi, and basil leaves on a plate or platter. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Serve with the blueberry syrup on the side, and toasted bread rounds.
Note: Halloumi is a sturdy Greek sheep’s milk cheese that holds up to grilling. If you can’t find it, use feta or ricotta salata and skip the grilling step.