Friday, February 16, 2007

Sour puss

In general I am a big fan of pickled or marinated items. I don't even mind sweet pickles as long as they are tangy rather than just sugary. I like the briney flavour of olives and capers, and prefer an oil and vinegar type dressing to creamy on most salads. Usually there are several jars of pickle type things in the fridge. Since Dh and DD don't eat that stuff, it is nice that the jar can keep for a long time and I can just take out what I want. With dinner, I often enjoy a small dish of mixed pickles and olives, beets, artichokes, roasted peppers, what have you. I used to practically live on dill pickles. But while I was pregnant with DD - a time when I was EXPECTED to crave them - even the smell made me quite ill. It took almost four years after her birth before I could even think of eating a dill pickle again, and I can't say I really enjoyed it. Add three years to that, and I am back to a jar-a-week Claussen whole baby dills habit. The price ranges from 4.99 to 6.99 a jar depending on season. I think it would be cheaper to smoke crack. We made all kinds of our own pickles at home. But my all-time favourites were the "crock style" pickles that were not meant to be jarred but rather eaten relatively soon after making. And dipped into often until they were all gone! They would get stronger and stronger as the days went by, so that each day the pickles tasted just a little bit different. They went from bright green to lime green to olive green, then eventually drab. Drab meant it was time to either eat them, put them in the fridge or seal them in jars with fresh brine. We made huge crocks of these things, and rarely had there even been enough to bother canning! We were lucky to put a quart jar in the fridge. Claussen refrigerated pickles remind me of those dills. Crunchy, mild, more salty than sharp from vinegar. Sadly, the family recipe that lists the proper ratio of salt, water, and vinegar in the brine was lost to a basement flood about 17 years ago. From time to time, I fill a container with dill and garlic and scrubbed small cucumbers, and make a brine from varying amounts of coarse salt and white or cider vinegar, and water. Sometimes a dash of sugar, but mostly not. And they are OKAY. But time after time, they taste too much like vinegar and not enough like the mild pickles I want. Sure, we need to up the acid to make recipes safe for canning. But these are NOT for canning! I tried kosher recipes that do not call for vinegar, but rather allowing the dills to ferment in the crock before chilling to stop that process. Nope, now instead of vinegar sharpness there is a sourness with the aftertaste of feet. Not what I was looking for. I just tried again, with a 1:3 ratio of water to vinegar. Bleah. Too much vinegar. Although the green peppers and cherry tomatoes I threw in there just to fill out the container are very good. Armed with more cucumbers, I am trying again tonight. What is left of the container will go into the fridge. They are not BAD as pickled vegetables go, just too strong for pickled cucumbers, you know? I'll treat the remainder like giardinara. Ooh, it would be good chopped and used as a topping for hamburger patties. Hmmmm. A little story about when I was making them. I had a pot of cider vinegar, salt, and water on to boil (the brine). The veggies were already cut, arranged, and waiting in the glass container. Dh was acting funny and took a second shower. For some reason he smelled the vinegar and got self conscious that it was his FEET. Good heavens! And I have to admit, the brine did stink up the house more than I thought it would. Everything all closed up for winter is to blame, I expect. There was nowhere for the fumes to go. After running the exhaust fan for a few minutes all was well again. Even funnier? The one cat was visably upset by the vinegar smell. Finally she came downstairs, perhaps to find a refuge but since I had been up and down several times, the smell had come right with me. She looked at us all funny, then came and gave Ruby a good sniff. I guess she thought it was the DOG making the smell! Wish me pickle luck.


latibug said...

I have never had crock pickles...but if you happen to figure it out...let me know...I would love to try them...i am a lover of all things sitting in vinegar

gardengrl (from the cf) said...

Ooooh Dances, check out the Harvest forum on the GardenWeb! We're a bunch of canning NUTS over there, to include the fine science of pickles!

There's a BUNCH of crock pickle recipes, just do a search on "pickle." I'm going to make pickles this year once cukes come into season.

Anonymous said...

I so enjoy reading your blog.

Here's an old Estonian recipe for crock pickles:

3-4 kg cucumbers
black currant leaves
bunch of dillweed, (use the entire stalk)
20-30 g horseradish
2-3 cloves of garlic

For the salt water:
5 l of water
200-300 g coarse salt

Wash the cucumbers.
Clean and chop the horseradish.
Wash the black currant leaves.
Wash dill, and chop into smaller pieces. It can also be folded to fit the crock.

Bring the salt water mixture to a boil and let cool.
Layer the cucumbers in the crock alternating with the black currant leaves, dill and horseradish.
Top with black currant leaves.
Pour the salt water over, cover the crock with a plate or a wooden lid, making sure the cucumbers remain covered.
Should be ready in 6-8 days.

Good Luck!