One of my favorite books as a kid was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I am a total geek about books, and I loved learning about the heroine, Francie, and her life in the greater context of living in impoverished Brooklyn during the early 1900s. One of my favorite passages has to do with how her mother creatively made do with the very limited food they could afford. At one point, Francie talks about how when she just couldn’t stomach the stale bread concoctions her mother cooked up, she’d save up her money and buy a giant sour pickle. Somehow, eating that pickle made food taste good again for her.
I kind of have the opposite problem. All food tastes good to me pretty much all the time, and I’m not malnourished on stale bread casserole. Nevertheless, I still need a good sour pickle every now and again to set me right. There’s something about the pucker and the crunch a good, solid pickle that makes for an intensely satisfying snack when nothing else seems right. I’ve also searched off and on for a few years to try to find the perfect pickle recipe. I haven’t been terribly successful, but I have to admit that I haven’t been exactly systematic about my search, either. I usually Google a few choice words and then settle on one of the first hits I get. Sigh. Pickle searching can be so exhausting.
Today I’m happy to announce that, for now at least, I’ve found a solid contender for great refrigerator pickles. This recipe by Ted Allen (host of “Chopped,” and formerly of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” fame) produces tart, crunchy pickles, brimming with gently spicy flavor. They’re seriously addictive.
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I made up a batch of just cucumber pickles last month when the hubby had a potluck lunch at work. The pickles were an afterthought, an accompaniment to the pulled barbecue chicken main course I sent with him. I fully expected him to come home with a half a jar of pickles leftover, which I’d planned on using for dinner that night. When he breezed through the door that night, the Mason jar was empty.
“Everyone at work LOVED your pickles,” he announced triumphantly. “They were the hit of the potluck!”
Common sense dictates that fudgy pan brownies are almost always the hit of any potluck, so I was dubious. Someone always brings fudgy pan brownies, and the hubby is always quick to exaggeration when it comes to my cooking. “Are you sure the fudgy pan brownies weren’t the winner?”
He shook his head. “These refrigerator pickles, man. People couldn’t get enough of them.”
I’ve made a few batches since that potluck, just to make sure that these pickles are really that good. I’ll simmer my vinegar brine and pour it over carrots, onions or any other hearty vegetable I have around. I’ll throw a couple of newly brewed jars in the refrigerator while cooking dinner. Later that night, I’ll eat one whole jar while thinking about life and current events, just to make sure that they’re really that good. Then I’ll start the whole process over again: simmer vinegar and spices, pour over hearty vegetables, refrigerate, consume entire jar while thinking about life and current events. It’s a therapeutic process that sets me right and makes me hungry for cooking other foods again.
Maybe fictional Francie was on to something. Pickles for appetite rebirth. I like it.
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed slightly with the back of a knife
- 2 cups distilled vinegar
- 6 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
- ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon white peppercorns
- optional: 2-3 sprigs fresh dill
- 8 Japanese or Persian small, seedless cucumbers, quartered lengthwise
- 2 cups baby carrots
- Optional: green beans, sliced onion, cauliflower, thinly sliced radishes, jalapeños
- In a medium saucepan, boil 4 cups of water; reduce to a simmer and add garlic. Cook 5 minutes. Add vinegar and salt; boil. Stir until salt dissolves. Remove from heat.
- In two 1-quart Mason jars, add seeds and peppercorns (and dill, if using). Using tongs, remove garlic from brine and add to jars. Pack jars with vegetables.
- Bring brine to a boil and pour over vegetables, to cover. Cool, cover and refrigerate.
- The pickles can be eaten after a few hours, but are best after refrigerating overnight and keep up to 3 months.
Inspired by this recipe from Ted Allen; also Whole30 compliant and paleo