For many years I made bread and butter pickles from an Emeril Lagasse, Louisiana Real and Rustic Cookbook. The recipe was similar to the pickles my grandma made and put up in her cellar. I would buy a basket full of kirbys at the height of the season, boil canning jars, soak the cuke slices in ice and salt overnight and then add them to the hot brine. Another boil of the sealed jars and they were finally done when the jar lids popped as they sat on the counter cooling. There was something satisfying about the process and the pickles made great Holiday gifts. When I opened them throughout the year I discovered after 6 months they had turned to mush………. I don’t have a garden with produce to preserve, so now I am a convert to quick refrigerator pickles.
Pickles are trending right now and I’m a fan of them as a condiment, not as a meal! Recently I ate at Skal, an Icelandic restaurant on the lower east side of Manhattan. Each vegetable was given different brines and the plate worked perfectly with our smoked herring and salt cod fritters. Pickles are a great way to provide contrast on the plate, in texture, acidity and color. Here are two pickle recipes I’m fond of. The first is basically an Italian giardiniera. These pickles are low calorie, no sugar and minimal salt, they have a clean and crisp flavor and add a shot of color to the plate. I vary the vegetables as to what is in the market and cut them into equal sizes. They are also an excellent accompaniment to braised dishes such as short ribs or any Italian salami, adding a crunch of acidity to the fatty meat. Also they are excellent with Mexican food, as a condiment with tacos or enchiladas and will add a cooling contrast to any spicy dishes.
The refrigerator pickles are great on sandwiches, with fried chicken and chopped up in tuna or egg salad. When the jar is empty you just add more pickles, onions and dill into the same brine. The jar will last all summer and they are ready in one day. My favorite pickle sandwich, Italian or good quality Virginia ham, on a cibatta roll, bottom half spread with butter, ham, pickles, arugula, with some olive oil and vinegar sprinkled on top…….
GIARDINIERA serves 6-8
1 small head cauliflower (purple or green looks great)
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 large carrot cut in rounds on the diagonal
1 large celery stalk cut in rounds, diagonal
1 handful green and yellow beans, trimmed
1 fennel, cut into eights through the core
6 large radishes cut in half
2 bay leaves
1 cup white vinegar (Heinz is the best for pickling)
Place vinegar with 6 cups water bay leaf peppercorns and all vegetables except green beans and red pepper in a large pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 8 minutes and then turn off heat. Add green beans and red pepper, sprinkle with salt and let sit for 1 hour. Transfer to a plastic or glass container and add enough brine to cover the veggies.
This can be kept in the fridge for 2 ½ weeks.
I usually use half of this recipe and vary the veggies……
ENDLESS CUCUMBER QUICK-PICKLES – 2 jars
Edible Boston Summer 2013
2 cups organic apple cider vinegar
¼ cup natural cane sugar
¼ cup kosher salt
1 T “pickling spices”, or a combination of coriander seeds, whole allspice, peppercorns, yellow mustard seeds, crumbled bay leaf
1 big pinch red chili flakes, or more if you like it spicy
2 cups cold water
6-7 kirby cucumbers, sliced about ¼ inch thick
1 small red onion or shallot, thinly sliced
4-5 sprigs dill, with flowers seeds if possible
In small saucepan heat the vinegar, sugar and salt and stir everything until it is dissolved and clear. Add the pickling spices, chili flakes and cold water and set aside to cool.
Fill your jar with layers of sliced cukes, onions and dill and pour the cooled brine over the vegetable and close the lid. Chill overnight and they are ready the next day.
When the jar is empty simply save the brine and reload with cukes, dill and onion throughout the summer.
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