Archive | pickles, relishes, chutneys RSS feed for this section

Garlic Dill Pickles

DSC_0050

I grew up in a household that appreciated a good garlic dill. As a kid, one of my very favorite after school snacks was a chunky pickle. I would fish one out of the jar with a fork, stabbing until I could get get traction and then drop it into a plastic cereal bowl. I’d slowly nibble away at the pickle over my book of the moment, until all I had left was the stem end of the cucumber and wrinkly, vinegar-scented fingers.

We also believe that no good sandwich is complete without a pickle. My parents take sandwich construction very seriously, and often buy jars of pickles that have been pre-sliced lengthwise just for this purpose (prior to being stacked between the lettuce and the cheese, these pickles are blotted on papertowels, so that the sandwiches aren’t made soggy by too much additional liquid).

DSC_0058

However, up until recently, the idea that a homemade pickle was actually the best kind of pickle didn’t occur to any of us (even taking into account the fact that my father has spent the last 30 years hunting for a pickle to replicate his beloved Polski Wyrob that he hasn’t been able to find since they left Chicago in 1978). I began my pickle enlightenment sometime back in the early spring, when I first started combining asparagus with a vinegar-based brine. I’ve been spreading the pickle gospel out west to my parents in Oregon for sometime now, and it appears that the indoctrination is complete.

My mother and I just spent the last hour on the phone and more than half our conversation revolved around homemade pickles (she now keeps a jar of brine in the fridge, and consistently replenishes the cucumber supply). I can’t tell you how proud I was tonight when she said, “I don’t think I’ll ever buy another jar of pickles again, when making them at home is so easy and so much better.” She’s also got her sights set on making these zucchini pickles (I admit, I sent her the link with a note suggesting they’d be a good way to use up the stampede of garden squash that is coming her way).

And, while I don’t think that my dad will ever find a pickle to compare to the Polski Wyrobs of yore, these garlic dills may just give his taste memory something to get excited about.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 254 }

Dilly Beans

dilly beans

String beans are one of my favorite vegetables around. My idea of a perfect easy summer meal is a tangle of lightly steamed string beans, dressed with a bit of butter and salt, along side some scrambled eggs and a sliced tomato. A couple of summers ago, I ate that for dinner three or four times a week for at least a month. Of course, that was before I had to think of Scott’s likes and dislikes when making dinner and sadly, he is a string bean hater. So my perfect little meal has been relegated to a once-in-a-while, solo experience (however, it’s a trade-off I happily make for love).

Thing is, I still find myself buying string beans like they’re a four times a week vegetable, which becomes a problem when trying to keep the refrigerator eco-system balanced. That is where the dilly bean comes in. It’s a gentle, zippy little pickle that preserves my green beans for months to come (well, if they last that long) and maintains the dinnertime peace.

One thing to note about string beans. They are perfectly safe to can in a boiling water bath when you’re making pickles out of them. They are NOT safe to can without the brine unless you’re using a pressure canner. One of the few documented cases of botulism that occurred last year was because a family ate some poorly preserved green beans. So if you want to preserve your beans but you don’t want to pickle them, either get yourself a pressure canner or blanch and freeze them.

Enough safety warnings, on to the recipe…

Continue Reading →

Comments { 236 }

Rhubarb Chutney

rhubarb chutney

After going completely crazy for rhubarb back in the spring, I took a bit of a break from it in June (with all the other summer fruits and vegetables coming into ripeness, there was plenty to keep me occupied). However, during that fallow time, I still had rhubarb that needed to be used, tightly wrapped and tucked into the bottommost corner of my left-hand crisper drawer. When the 4th of July weekend rolled around, I decided to have a weekend of many canning projects. I made multiple batches of pickles (bread and butter & dilly beans) and jams (apricot), and finally did something with that neglected rhubarb.

Though the ends of the stalks were a bit worse for the storage time, the rhubarb was still in acceptable shape and more than good enough to be turned into something wonderful. Back when I made that batch of grape catchup (has anyone tried that recipe? It’s okay if you haven’t, it is sort of a weird one), I also noted two rhubarb recipes in close proximity. One was a recipe for rhubarb butter and the other was a rhubarb chutney. I headed into my canning extravaganza with every intention of making the butter, but on that Friday night, when I finally got around to dealing with the rhubarb, I had just finished making six pints of apricot jam, and I was weary of all those sweet notes.

My fingers flipped to the chutney recipe and wouldn’t you know, I had every single ingredient the recipe called for right there in my kitchen. It was fated (or I have a ridiculously overstocked kitchen. I think Scott would argue for the latter) and so I made chutney from my beloved New York Times Heritage Cook Book.

Thing is, I don’t really come from chutney people. We McClellans like our condiments just fine (I grew up dipping steamed broccoli in mayonnaise and roasted potatoes in mustard), but my mother has never been a sweet-and-savory-in-the-same-bite kind of person, so I grew up unaccustomed to the ways in which a good chutney can transform a dish. And I must say, this simple recipe is fairly transformational (at least for this chutney innocent).

It’s quite tasty (although I think if I make it again, I’ll make it just a bit spicier) and I have plans for it to encounter a nice slab of chevre sometime in the very near future (my latest party trick, when called upon to bring a contribution to a potluck or evening of in-home drinks with friends is to bring jam, goat cheese and crackers. It is so simple and people are completely impressed). If you’ve got some rhubarb to use up and you are tired of jams, cobblers, slumps and crisps, this is a good way to go.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 50 }

Some recent pickling projects

pickled ramps

I have a secret for you. Sometimes, making pickles is so easy that it doesn’t even require a recipe. I have two recent examples, that I hope, when shared, will inspire you to leap up from your computer and rush to the kitchen in order to toss something (anything) with a bit of brine and seasoning.

Back in May, a friend gave me a small jar of ramps (very pungent wild onions) for my birthday. I knew that the way to best appreciate the gift was to pickle them. I did a bit of recipe searching, but found that the dominant pickled ramp recipe available online was a sweet one (if this story is sounding familiar to you, it’s because I briefly blogged about my search for a good pickled ramp recipe back in May). I didn’t want to go that way, so I forged a different path.

Knowing that a standard brine calls for half vinegar, half water and whichever spices make your taste buds sing, I mixed up a concoction of apple cider vinegar, water and some pickling spices (I used my standard Penzeys pickling mix, but added a pinch of cayenne to it for a hint of heat). After a month and a half in the fridge (you don’t have to keep them in the fridge that long before eating, 3-4 days would do it, I’ve just got many pickles on my plate), they hit all the right pickly notes and make this girl quite happy indeed.

pickled mexican sour gherkins

Last Saturday, while strolling the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market, I happened upon a stand selling pints of tiny cucumbers that looked like miniature watermelons. I asked the farmer about them (a very nice guy named Don) and he said that they were Mexican Sour Gherkins and encouraged me to taste one. They were bright, tangy and fresh tasting and so I bought two pints for $6 (which was more than I’d ever paid for such a small quantity of something destined for a brine).

When I got them home, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed by kitchen projects. My plan to devise a special brine for these little guys was quickly abandoned. Instead I just rinsed them off and poured them all into the quart jar of leftover brine I had in the fridge. The brine was from my end of season pickled asparagus that I did a few weeks ago (you can find that recipe here). Over the last week in the fridge, their natural tartness has married in a highly delicious way with the brine and I munched a small bowl this afternoon just because I could.

So, next time you find yourself with an unusual ingredient, don’t fret over what to do with it. Pickle it! I’ve got a whole bag of garlic scapes in the fridge right now, awaiting a briny fate.

Comments { 12 }

Asian-Inspired Refrigerator Pickles

finished fridge pickles

I had the first incarnation of these pickles at a potluck I hosted nearly two years ago. My friend Wendy brought them to the party, and by the end of the night, the once overflowing bowl was reduced to a puddle of brine and with three little spears bobbling amidst the hot peppers and onion slivers. Crisp, fragrant and flavorful, they seemed to pair perfectly with every other dish on the table.

When the evening wrapped up, Wendy gave me permission to pour the leftover brine into a jar to save and reuse. The next day I added a fresh batch of cucumber spears and let the sweet/sour liquid work its magic. These days, I make these quick fridge pickles regularly during the spring, summer and fall, when kirby cucumbers are readily available (these do okay when made with English cucumbers, but not so well when made with waxed cukes). The brine can be reused several times (trash it when it gets cloudy).

Feel free to alter this recipe to your liking. Wendy’s original recipe calls for shallots and cilantro. I used scallions and mint because that’s what I had. If you don’t want your pickles to be too spicy, use half a hot pepper (or none at all if you can stand the heat). The recipe is after the jump.

ingredients for fridge pickles

Continue Reading →

Comments { 47 }

Pickled Ramps are Everywhere!

ramps

At my birthday party last Saturday, my friends Albert and Kate came bearing a chocolate loaf cake and a half-pint jar of ramps (Albert works at the Fair Food Farmstand, which puts him in the ideal position to catch all the best and most exotic produce in town). I do believe that the very best thing to do with these gifted ramps is to a nice, long soak in a vinegary solution.

As luck would have it, I’ve seen not one, but two other bloggers out there pickling ramps of late. They both used variations on a recipe from Tom Colicchio that ran on Serious Eats last year. I’m tempted to run with that recipe, but I’m also sort of hesitant to use a sweet and sour brine. I’m just not a huge fan of sweet pickles. However, I do believe in the power and talent of Tom Colicchio, so I feel a bit sacreligious questioning his pickle authority.

Have any of you tried this pickled ramp recipe? Do you have an alternate suggestions? Or should I just pop them in my standard brine?

Comments { 5 }