When the Pickles are Pickled
Okay, over the past few weeks I have made a few pickle attempts, various veggies and stuff that I’d put up in jars and brine, to sit and, well, pickle.
Tonight I broke open all three to see how they turned out, and how they tasted; last week we tried one of the others. In general, a fairly successful set of experiments–going three for four, anyway.
By far the most successful experiment was the spicy zucchini pickles. Bright, spicy, sweet, absolutely lovely. I wanted to just stand there with the jar and eat them all. I want to go buy more zucchini to make more. And more. (And wouldn’t this be the year my garden decided to be stingy and deny me any giant green behemoths? This would be the perfect recipe for the big tough suckers that have grown too much to just sort of eat.) I altered the recipe a little, choosing not to peel or seed the zukes and making them in spears instead of chunks–but it worked just fine. It’s a sweet-spicy recipe that reminds me a lot of the spicy watermelon pickles my mom used to make every once in a long while. Really lovely. (Beware using too many cloves…they will make your tongue numb.) But totally, totally, try these!
The caponata I made two weeks ago also had a little time to let the flavors blend and meld–and they blended into a really awesome condiment that didn’t really taste like any of the individual ingredients but had a lovely taste of its own. Verrry nice. I could get used to eggplant if it’s in stuff like this.
I also had made a very impulsive sweet pickle relish recipe from The Art of Preserving…or sort of . With pickles I’m not as worried about following recipes exactly. The recipe called for apple cider vinegar and bell peppers…I used white vinegar and carrots instead. Chopped up a mixture of cucumbers, half an onion, and a few carrots, put them into a half pint jar. Made a brine out of white vinegar, 1.5 times that amount sugar, 1/8 that amount salt. Into the jar with the veggies I put a teaspoon or so each celery seeds, mustard seeds, and half a teaspoon of allspice. Poured the brine over it. Processed in a water bath. I had some on a hot dog tonight; it made a very creditable relish, a little crunchier and fresher than traditional relish, but that may be because it only pickled for a couple of weeks; I’ll try it again in a month or so. (Yeah, I know, the seal’s broken now, but it should still keep for ages.) It’s good. And I know exactly what went into it–no weird ingredients, none of that bizarre radioactive-looking dye that turns it such an improbable shade of green (or sometimes almost turquoise–is that only Chicago where that crazy blue-ish pickle relish turns up?)…just fresh nice veggies pickled in my own brine.
The least successful attempt was just ordinary pickles, in my own pickling spice and brine. They aren’t bad, but they also aren’t anything to write home about. Which goes to teach me that I really ought to stick with recipes someone else developed.
I never thought of myself as a pickle person…but I could get used to this.