Apologies and pickles
August 12, 2012
Yes, it is an indication of the pinging-off-the-pinball-bumpers that is my life that apologies and pickles go together on the closing day of the Olympics.
Let’s get the apologia out of the way first. I’ve been busy grandmothering, busy at work, and out of town, and have continued to shamefully neglect you, my faithful readers. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.
Unfortunately, however, I can’t be absolved from my sins, because I’m fixin’ to do it again. After a whole week-and-a-day here at home, I will be hitting the road again Friday afternoon for a six-day road trip across Tennessee and into the hills of North Georgia (“Whut choo wanna go f*** with that river fer?”). Back from that on Wednesday night late, leave Sunday for the hills of Northwest Arkansas. Back from that Tuesday, Blues Festival starts Thursday, and I leave that Sunday morning for Japan.
So unless I get a word or a post or something in edgewise betwixt now and then, I’ll apologize in advance for neglecting all y’all until mid-September, when hopefully the weather will have cooled from inferno-like to something that will lend itself to cooking. I have carbonnades a la flamande on my mind, yes, I do. And bouef bourguignon. And chili.
Yes, you heard it here, on August 12. I’m ready for it to be winter. And I believe that may be the first time in my literate life I’ve written that sentence.
So, I’m sorry, both in retrospect and in advance. Now, on to the pickling.
I’ve been getting these marvelous cucumbers from Arkansas Natural Produce. Slicing cucumbers, they are, and they’re about 18 inches long and between an inch and a half and two inches in diameter. Wonderful, sweet cucumbers, no bitter skin. I’ve made cucumber salads innumerable, by at least three different recipes. And Friday, here came a couple more of those ginormous cucumbers in my co-op order.
I didn’t have anything significant in mind for them, so I stashed them in the crisper. Then I went to the Farmers Market Saturday morning, and one of the Laotian farmers there had these big honkin’ daikon radishes. And I thought, h’mmm, daikon pickle.
Now, this was a BIG daikon radish. I’d guess it was in the realm of 16 to 18 inches long, and honestly, quite obscene looking. And I thought I might try a cucumber/daikon pickle, until I checked the Interwebs and found out if daikon gets pickled with anything, it tends to be carrots, and I didn’t feel like that. But I commenced to googling daikon pickle recipes, and ran across Tyler Florence’s recipe, which is damn well close to what I use when I make slaw or pickle cauliflower. To wit:
- 1 pound sliced daikon radish (slices cut in half if daikon is very large, and mine was, so I did)
- 1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
You toss the sliced daikon with the salt, and let it sit in a colander for a couple of hours. You boil the vinegar, water, sugar and turmeric until the sugar dissolves, and pour the resultant psychedelic yellow liquid over the rinsed and drained daikon in a sterilized jar, and you refrigerate it.
Except I skipped over the step that says mix the salt with the slices, etc., and just put the salt in the brine. Consequently, my pickles are salty sweet — but still good. Enough of that radishy heat to be tasty.
And then I still had the cucumbers. So I went looking for bread and butter pickles, because I love them. And lo and behold, that brine is even more like my slaw brine than the other one was:
- 1 cup vinegar (it called for white, but I was out, so I used cider)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds or 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
This time I read more carefully, and mixed my salt with my sliced cucumbers (about two pounds) and a sliced sweet onion. Covered that, in a bowl, with ice cubes and let it set for two hours, then drained it and chunked out the remaining ice. Brought the remaining brine ingredients to a boil, dumped in the cucumbers and onion, and brought it back to almost a boil before taking it off the heat and covering it. That should make about two quarts of pickles, which will keep in the fridge for a month or more. I’ll be anxious to see if they’re like my Mama’s bread-and-butter pickles, which were pressure-canned and lined up in ranks on the shelves in the basement, where I would sneak down and open a jar and eat half of them before being discovered.
Speaking of pickling onion (well, I didn’t really speak of it, but I mentioned it), I had some of the most astounding pickled sweet onion earlier this week that I believe I’ve ever had. I was in Myrtle Beach at a conference, and in lieu of the interminably long, tremendously boring, awful-banquet-chicken lunches they tend to feed you, I skipped out to the beach for a couple of hours in the sun both days.
There’s a little beachside/poolside snack bar, emphasis on bar, but they had several lunch selections. One of them was “Mediterranean tapas,” with no further description, but I’d heard someone the day before mention it was some of the best hummus she’d ever had. And I like me some hummus. So I ordered it.
It came in a big salad bowl, with a couple of six-inch pitas warmed and cut into triangles; a mound of hummus, a nice handful of Kalamata olives, a tablespoonful or so each of diced tomatos and crumbled feta, and some arugula. Given the resort pricing schedule on everything else, I thought $9 for a quite filling and tasty lunch was pretty damn reasonable.
And it had on it a couple of tablespoonsful of the best onions I’ve ever consumed in my life.
They looked like they’d been caramelized to a light golden brown. But while they were soft, they still had a good bit of structural integrity about them. And they were sweet. Not like they were candied, but sweet sort of like a bread and butter pickle is sweet. They really didn’t have a tart pickle-like bite to them, but they didn’t have the oily finish you associate with caramelized onions.
And piled on a warm pita point spread with that luscious hummus, they were Da Bomb!
I will be trying to replicate that. Also, time I pulled out the chickpeas and made me some hummus. I think I’m gonna buy one of those quart bags of peeled garlic cloves at Sam’s, toss them in olive oil and roast them; some roasted garlic hummus would go down right well with some of these pickles.
So if you and y’mama ‘n ‘em feel like getting in a pickle, try either one of these. And if you perfect some sweet onions, let me know how you did it.