Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pickles, sweet and sour

This summer has been wonderful for produce: the warm, rainy New York State spring made everything pop early, the flavors rich and pure. From the Amish families that trot their offerings to the farmers' market, we procure crisp Romaine, corn still warm from the field, and this year, small pickling cucumbers, which my mother has been pickling every which way.

My mother has not always made pickles. Growing up in Indiana, there were always homemade pickles in her Mother's refrigerator, gifts from neighbors or bought at the fair. Corn, onions, radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, anything from the garden was fair game. Here, pickles sold at the summer farmer's market were mostly canned. About five years ago, she saw a recipe in the paper for dill pickles, and it looked easy. That first batch attracted kids in our house like her canister of M 'n M's (ok, not quite, but still, for a small, sour, crunchy vegetable, they go well here).

Homemade Garlic Pickles
5 lbs. pickling cucumbers
1/2 gallon and 5 cups cold water
1 1/3 cups kosher salt
2 T mixed pickling spices (available in the spice section of your supermarket)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 large sprigs fresh dill
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 T sugar

Wash cukes well. Put in glass or stainless bowl. Combine 1/2 gallow water and 1 cup salt. Stir until dissolved. Pour over cukes, cover and let stand overnight.

Drain and rinse cukes and discard brine water. Pack into clean gallon glass jar along with spices, garlic and dill.

Combine remaining 5 cups water, 2 cups vinegar and 2 T sugar. Bring to a boil and pour over the cukes.

Cool, cover jar and refrigerated. Pickles are ready to eat as soon as they cool, but better if left overnight. Will keep in fridge to 2 weeks.

Traditionally, our summer fridge contains a tall canister of dills, but this summer, with the cukes so plentiful, she's been experimenting with varying degrees of sweetness. We weigh in as they ripen, spooning them out of the jar into dishes for lunch, snacks and dinner.

This summer, the sweet pickle recipe is the winner, large praise from my mother, whose motto is: "I never met a pickle that I didn't like."

Sweet Refrigerator Pickles
7-8 cups thin sliced pickling cucumbers (3 lbs.)
1 sliced onion, big
2 sliced peppers, red green or yellow
1/8 cup salt
1 cup vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp mustard seed

Place vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with 1/8 cup salt and cover with ice water -- leave for 2 hours.

Drain and place in jars. Boil vinegar and rest of ingredients and pour over pickles. Store in fridge for up to two weeks.

If you can keep them around that long!


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