“Oh, Hamlet, how camest thou in such a pickle?” (Act 5, Scene 1.)
Ogorki. Dill pickles. Whatever you want to call them, pickled cucumbers in the Eastern European style have always been one of my favourite foods. Until now it has been a sore point that I've never managed to make them. Firstly because I like to think homemade is also best. Also I worried about what I would do post peak-oil without access to Polish pickles, without access even to the tinned Israeli ones. And they're kinda expensive when you've got a pickle habit like me.
"Thou shalt be whipp'd with wire and stew'd in brine, Smarting in lingering pickle.”
(Anthony and Cleopatra, Act 2, Scene 5.)
My first attempt many years ago freaked me out because the garlic turned blue. I didn't know then that it was just because of a reaction with the stuff they put in salt so I threw them all out fearing some kind of poisioning. Last year I tried again and most of the pickles went awfully soft but a few stayed firm so it gave me hope.
But by the time cucumber season came around this year I had a lot more fermentation practice under my belt and I had met Sandorkraut, my pickling guru. (well I read his book, I didn't really meet him.) I now understood that the souring in my pickles was a simple process and nothing to be afraid of but also I felt worried as Sandor said dill pickles were the hardest pickles around. Oh the confusion!
My pickling cucumbers didn't grow too well in this drought summer but when I found some for sale at a Balaclava greengrocer I just had to give it a try. And? Success! These pickles turned out just perfect. Garlicky. Sour. Crunchy. I have never been so happy. I bought more cucumbers and now I feel ready for winter - all stocked up. Hell maybe if I can learn to grow the little mofos I'll even be ready for peak oil.
In September, 2000, after the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 41-14 in the blazing, September heat, many players attributed the win to the vim and vigor they gained from drinking pickle juice. "I may start drinking pickle juice when I'm just sitting home chilling," said defensive end Hugh Douglas.
You can read the recipe I used here. It's really easy - just make sure you use unadulterated salt and stick heaps of grape leaves in to keep them crunchy. Otherwise all you really need to do is pack the cucumbers in a bucket with garlic and dill and pour salty water over them. Then sit back and wait for the bacteria to do their thing. I didn't have as much garlic on hand as Sandor specifies but found mine were heaps garlicky enough even using less. Now go forth and pickle.
I myself, will be planning how to get to pickle day. yes!
(The excellent "Pickle Wing" of the NY Food Museum is also where I stole the great quotes.)
Sunday, April 22, 2007