Thursday, January 26, 2012

How's This For a Pickle?

Lately I’ve been drawn to pickles and the whole pickling process.
This may have been brought on by the Guerilla Chef spending time with his new tsukemono press or perhaps his mention of various middle east pickles he enjoys.
Whatever the reason, when I saw a used copy of Quick Pickles, Easy Recipes with Big Flavor by, Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby and Dan George, I had to pick it up. As luck would have it this is one of the pickling books the Guerilla Chef recommends in his recent post regarding the cooking books he finds the most useful.

Wandering through the book turns up a whole raft of recipes that just plain sound great. I had to do it!

Choosing which recipe to begin with was actually rather difficult, they all sounded so good. I finally settled on Famous Back Eddy House Pickles. The Back Eddy is a restaurant owned by one of the authors and this dish is said to be very popular with the restaurant’s patrons.

For the full recipe you’ll have to find the book. I don’t want to violate any copyright protections by giving the complete recipe here. They developed it, they deserve to be compensated for it.
Besides, the book rocks, you’ll want to have it anyway.

Here are the basic vegetable ingredients to this dish. We've got pickling cucumbers, a couple onions, carrots, garlic (I put in a few more garlic than the recipe calls for - if you read this blog regularly you know that I love garlic), and a couple bell peppers.
Hiding in the sidewings is apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, coriander seed, allspice, mustard seed, ground cloves, salt, and bay leaves.

The first thing to do is slice and salt the cucumbers. I found this great large crystal sea salt at the dollar store and have been having some fun with it. I typically use Kosher salt for a step like this but these big salt crystals are pretty cool.

The salted cucumber slices get covered in ice and put into the refrigerator for an hour or two. I'm kind of embarassed to say that we didn't have any ice on hand as the freezer is too full of other stuff. I had to treat Fayme to an ice cream cone at the corner Dairy Queen so I could beg a large cup of ice from them.

Here are the other vegetable ingredients ready to play with. The garlic is hiding in the bottom of the bowl under the onions.
There's my favorite knife, too. I gather that there are some high end kitchen knives being marketed these days that are being made from a revolutionary "new" material called carbon steel. Heck, these carbon steel knives have been around for a very long time and some of us have been using and enjoying them all along. It's not a kitchen without a good sharp knife and this one is mine.

Here's an artistic photo of the sunshine coming in the window to light up the pan full of sliced vegetables. This step is sauteeing them lightly to soften the carrots.

Now for the serious stuff - apple cider vinegar and all the spices. We'll bring this to a boil and then cook it for a few minutes to infuse everything together. As the vinegar and spices heat up a taste bud squeezing aroma is filling the kitchen, and the whole apartment!

I've taken the cucumbers out of the refrigerator and drained, rinsed, and drained them again. Now they're being mixed with the sauteed vegetables and we're just waiting for the spiced vinegar to cook a little longer.

Just a little bit longer...


And poured...

And bottled!

Now's the hard part. After the pickles cool to room temperature they'll be put into the refrigerator where they may be kept for up to one month. But after sneeking a couple tastes I don't think they'll last anywhere near that long.
They're ready to eat now but I think they'll be best at refrigerator temperature. I'm looking forward to giving these a real taste test tomorrow morning.

Happy pickling!

A number of days have passed and I have to say these pickles have turned out really wonderful. We've been snacking on them and also having them with many of our meals.
My pickles don't look like the ones in the book's photo. Those look really clean, crisp, and are still their natural color. Mine have taken on a brownish hue from the brown apple cider vinegar I used and they look somewhat wilted. But they are still crisp with a great snap in the mouth. The taste has a good vinegar bite that isn't overwhelming.
The next time I make these I'm going to see if sauteeing the vegetables a shorter time improves their look and I'll also use a good quality vinegar that hasn't sat in my cupboard for who knows how many years.