9.02.2010

The Local Food Report: two pickle recipes

Cucumbers, I used to think, were long and round and green. Then I met the Lemon Cucumber, and the Boothby Blonde, and the Miniature White, and all that changed.

That up there is a Lemon Cucumber, picked from our garden the other day. It looks nothing like a traditional cucumber—what with its roly-poly shape and citrus color and mottled, spiny back. But inside, it is all crunch and gush and seeds. It doesn't have quite so much of the chemical compounds—cucurbitacins—that make some cucumbers bitter and some people prone to burps, which is part of what makes it so unusual, and why people like it so much. It's best for eating fresh and slicing into salads, and if you're into cold soups, it hollows out as a serving vessel quite nicely.

I've been talking with farmers all over the Cape about what varieties of cucumbers they're growing this summer, and the Lemon is just one. There are all sorts of other unusual varieties—the Miniature White I mentioned above, which is good for slicing and excellent for bread and butter pickles, and the Boothby Blonde, an heirloom from Livermore, Maine. Gretel Norgeot is growing Sour Mexican Gherkins for the second year in a row, Ron Backer has a wild, curvy Asian variety called Suyo Long, and of course, a lot of people are growing regular old English cucumbers and Marketmores.

My favorite varieties, though, are the ones that lend themselves to pickling. I lean toward bread and butter pickles, at least I have since I met my husband. I used to be more of a Claussen Kosher Dill girl, but then I tasted a jar of pickles made from the recipe Alex's grandfather got from a friend, copied down decades ago from an inn in Maine. The pickles are thin, and sweet, and tangy, and absolutely perfect piled into a grilled cheese or alongside meat.


But, for those of you who do lean dill—even garlicy dill—I recruited another tried and true recipe today. It's from my producer, Jay, who is a bit of a pickle fanatic. He makes these pickles almost entirely out of his garden, and while they're very different from the bread and butters I make, they are good.

So here you are—two pickle recipes—for whatever kind of cucumbers you might find.

BRAD'S FAMOUS BREAD 'N BUTTER PICKLES

This recipe was passed down to us by Alex's grandfather, Martin Luther Bradford. He got it from a friend, who in turn copied it down from an innkeeper in Maine. The key is to slice the cucumbers and the onions very thinly—Alex's grandfather used the Cusinart slicing attachment; I like to use a mandolin. It makes 6-8 pints.

16 medium cucumbers, very thinly sliced
6 onions, very thinly sliced
1 green pepper, diced (optional)
1 red pepper, diced (optional)
1/3 cup pickling salt
2 trays ice cubes
5 cups granulated sugar
3 cups white vinegar
1 and 1/2 tablespoons celery seed
1 and 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
2 tablespoons mustard seed

Combine the cucumbers, onions, peppers (if using), and salt in a large bowl. Mix well, then crack the ice cubes over top. Let sit for 3 hours, then drain.

Combine the sugar, vinegar, celery seed, turmeric, and mustard seed in a large, non-reactive pot. Add the cucumbers and bring to a rolling boil. Spoon into sterile jars and seal.


BRINY GARLIC DILL PICKLES

This recipe, which comes from Jay Allison, is based on a Mark Bittman recipe. On a good year, Jay is able to get almost all the ingredients from his garden, and he says this year has been especially good for dill. In my opinion the spears are best cold, straight from the fridge, alongside a sandwich.

1/3 cup kosher salt
1 cup hot water
2 pounds pickling cucumbers
6-12 cloves fresh crushed garlic, to taste
1/2 bunch dill
1 jalapeño, without seeds (optional)
cold water

Dissolve the salt in the hot water, then put the mixture in the freezer to cool. Pour this cold salt water into a large bowl or storage container. Quarter the cucumbers into spears (you may even want to cut them into eighths if they're especially large) and layer them into the bowl with the garlic, dill, and jalapeño, if using. Add cold water as needed to just cover the layers.

Cover the bowl and leave it out at room temperature for about 4 hours, longer if you like your pickles stronger (read: more garlicy). Then refrigerate; they last for about a week in the brine.

5 comments :

The Table of Promise said...

Looks lovely. I made fermented dill pickles this year and they were good. I used too much garlic and my husband won't eat them. And I made them about 6-7 weeks ago and they are still in my fridge. How long can I keep them for? Do you know? I don't imagie they are just 'indefinitely good'.

Also, how big is that cucumber? Because I can't quite tell what you photographed it sitting on the cuke almost looks like the size of a penny. Or just really small. I have never seen this kind of cuke. I wonder if I can find it in Manhattan?

Elspeth said...

Hi there,

That lemon cucumber is about the size of the tennis ball. Sorry for the lack of comparison objects! I will add a penny next time.

I don't know how long fermented pickles will last—I am guessing a while, though, as they will just keep fermenting. Sorry not to have a better answer.

I bet you can find them in Manhattan—try the farmers markets.

Good luck!

All the best,
Elspeth

Alison said...

Never made pickles before, but that's a project I'm planning on tackling soon. I did just put up a lug of tomatoes, which was fun. I think I have about 10 quarts now, but should probably do it one more time while I can to get us through the year. Whew! 'Tis the season. =)

Hope you fare well this weekend with the hurricane...

Alison

Elspeth said...

Alison,

A lug of tomatoes—I wish I'd gotten around to that already! Hopefully in the next few weeks.

Good luck with the pickles, and thank you for your well-wishes! I'm out to pick the tomatoes before the storm.

All the best,
Elspeth

Anna said...

This may have to be my first radical homemaking project! So yummy.

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