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Project Pickle

August 11, 2010

Remember those Christmases of old, when you would quietly tiptoe down the hall to see if Santa had delivered his Christmas bounty? Remember checking the cookies (and, at my house, carrots for the reindeer) to see if the jolly old man had taken a nibble? And once the shining mountain of gifts had been spotted and you knew he had indeed visited your house (I guess you had been pretty good that year), begging your mom to get out of bed so you could shred the beautiful paper like there was no tomorrow to get to the Barbie wedding party waiting inside? And then, remember the anxiety and nervousness of having to wait till it was at least 5 am to open anything? It was all just too much; the excitment, the anticipation, and the waiting! UGHH.

Well. I have been feeling like that for days now. And it certainly isn’t Christmas in August by any means, and im not talking about Barbie and her matching bridesmaids. I made pickles on Sunday. Beautiful jars of colorful vegetables swimming in brine, begging to be popped open and tasted. But you have to wait at least a week. And by week, I mean you are supposed to wait ten days but I just can’t stand it and there is NO way im going to wait that long.

Last week, after my market meander, I had a refrigerator full of fresh, local vegetables. Well, Tuesday was, of course, supper club, Wednesday was date night at Tangierino (more on that later), and Thursday was A‘s birthday and then I was out-of-town all weekend. Needless to say, my fresh veggies were on their way to being not so fresh. I had been thinking a lot about pickling lately and had been hoping to try it out with some of the produce that is available at the farmers markets, and with no time like the present, I made pickles.

Throughout the week I had been researching different recipes and came to the conclusion that my best bet would be to make a batch of refrigerator pickles, rather than a “hot pack.” refrigerator pickles do not go through the canning process of boiling after the brine is added to the jars (this seals the jars and kills whatever bacteria might be lurking about). Canning is great if you have a ton of vegetables to use (ie, you have your own garden), a good amount of space to store your plethora of jars (ie, don’t live in an apartment) and if you have all of the necessary materials to can (you can make do without, but can be tricky). So, refrigerator pickles for me. In all of the recipes and reviews I read, these also seem to retain their crunch a bit better and works well in small batches. I found some great recipes on fellow blogger’s Food in Jars site and because I know Kate is a fan, I also turned to Martha Stewart and just did a simple search. Between the two, I decided I need about an equal ratio of white vinegar and water, pickling spices, garlic, dill and if heat is wanted, some red pepper flakes. I found a great pickling spice mix on New York Times, but took out a few things because I wasn’t looking for a sweet pickle. The pickles I am looking for are crunchy, with sharp flavor that requires a teeth brushing before moving on to something else. I came up with a recipe that is just a conglomerate of all that I read. The process is easy, the waiting is not. Here is what I did.

Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles

3 cups of white vinegar
2.5 cups of water
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
2 tables spoon of cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon of mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of sugar
3-4 tablespoons of salt (pickling salt)
1 teaspoon (or more per taste) of red pepper flakes
A bundle of dill
A head of fresh garlic
vegetables I used 6 small pickling cucumbers, 5 rainbow-colored carrots, and a pound of mixed beans, wax and green

1. Two hours before you start, slice your cucumbers into spears. In my research, it seems that spears are best for refrigerator pickles because they wont become too soft the way rounds will. Put the spears in a colander and cover liberally with salt, toss to coat. Place the colander in the fridge with a plate underneath. The salt will draw water out of the cuc’s and make for crispyer pickles. After the two hours are up, rinse rinse rinse and then spread them out on a paper towel to shed excess water.

2. Boil a pot of water and blanch your beans and carrots for 30 seconds to a minute, then quickly move them to an ice bath. Once they have cooled, begin filling your jars. I filled four medium-sized jars with a mix of vegetables and added 4 whole cloves of garlic to each. We also used a knife tip to slide in some dill fawns in between.

3. In a nonreactive pot, add the water and vinegar and the spices, making sure the salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Taste the brine to see if it needs anything (I was especially making sure that it was spicy enough, yet still a teeny bit sweet). Then for ease, we poured the mixture into a bowl that had a little spout/lip to make pouring it into the jars easier. Once each jar was filled, about 1/4 an inch from the top, we added the spices left in the bowl, and then used a butter knife to bubble the jars-  take the butter knife and go around the interior of the jars to release any bubbles. Seal tightly.

4. Let the jars come to room temperature and then refrigerate for a week (or ten days if you have the patience)


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