Saturday, July 3, 2010

Quickie Pickles

Sweet, salty, garlicky, hot, or vinegary, people have been enjoying pickles for what is estimated to be over 4,000 years. Throughout history, pickles have been highly revered for far more than their tasty crunch; Cleopatra is said to have attributed some of her beauty to the briny cucumbers, while Julius Caesar found them invigorating, and Aristotle praised them for their healing affects.

According to North Carolina’s Mount Olive Pickle Company, as chronicled on http://www.foodmuseum.com/, the tradition of pickling dates way back to 2030 B.C. when cucumbers were brought over from their native of India to the Tigris valley where they were first preserved and eaten. Pickled cucumbers are loved the world over, but while their popularity mostly originates in Europe, they have always had an especially large fan base in America. After all, pickles were on board for the country’s discovery, were held in high regard by presidents such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and thrived upon by colonial settlers when conditions did not allow much of a shelf life for anything else.

In 1492, pickles sailed the ocean blue, making their way to America via Columbus’s ships, the NiƱa, Pinta, and Santa Maria. America owes its namesake to the Spanish pickle merchant turned explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who stocked Columbus’s ships with plenty of Vitamin C-rich pickles to help ward against scurvy outbreaks. In 1695, the flavor-bathing cucumbers went commercial when Dutch farmers started growing cucumbers in what is now Brooklyn and selling them to dealers who cured them in barrels and marketed them on Manhattan streets. From there, I guess you can say the rest is history.

When making pickles, there are a few different approaches you can take. One way is to ferment the cucumbers in a brine solution over several weeks. Obviously, since bacteria are involved, this method requires keeping a careful eye on factors such as temperature and sticking to your recipe. For a quick, easy, and safer alternative you can make vinegar pickles, like with my extremely fast recipe for sweet pickle chips. Although best after three to four days, you can literally eat them almost as quick as you make them, and you still get that strong pickle flavor. They are so good!

Just for fun: According to http://www.exploratorium.edu/, the expression “in a pickle” is derived from the Dutch expression “in de pekel zitten.” Used to describe being in a bad situation, the phrase literally translates to sitting in pickling solution.

Quickie Sweet Pickle Chips
Yield: 1 pound

- 1 pound cucumbers, washed and sliced at about 1/8” with a mandolin
- ¼ pound onion, sliced ¼”
- 6 fl oz. cider vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ tsp mustard seeds
- ¼ pound sugar, divided
- 2 cups water
- 5 fl oz white vinegar
- 1/8 oz celery seed
- ¼ Tbs allspice power
- ½ tsp turmeric

• Combine cucumbers, onions, cider vinegar, salt, mustard, half of sugar and water. Simmer for 10 minutes and drain. Discard liquid.
• Bring white vinegar, celery seed, allspice, and remaining sugar to a boil. Pour over cucumbers and onions and let rest under refrigeration for 3-4 days before serving.

Recipe utilizing pickles to come!

Happy 4th of July!

2 comments:

Lauren Zabaneh said...

I just love pickles! This is such a great recipe. Thank you for sharing and the picture is fab!

Marisa said...

Thanks Lauren! I appreciate it. These are so easy to make. You will have homemade pickles in no time!