08 July 2013

Fresh Pickles Makes it Summer

Our family garden plot
Bella Baita Garden View
I don't know about you but when I was growing up in southern Illinois, our family dining table usually had two items that graced the center of the table for almost every lunch and dinner for the duration of the summer season. What would that be, you might be wondering, unless it was on your table as well? Invariably we had big juicy slabs of deeply red tomatoes on one plate and a glass bowl or the appropriate sized tupperware bowl with cucumber and a few onion slices, languishing in an ample amount of apple cider vinegar. There probably was a touch of sugar and a bit of water to tame the tang. I loved those sides of the summer and rarely tired of them, my folks certainly didn't. They had a way of elevating most luncheon cold cuts or filling in around the edges of light suppers, that I rarely have replicated since living in the higher mountain climes.
quick cucumber pickles and tomatoes
Refrigerator Pickles and Cuore di Bui Tomatoes

However recently we have been getting some great "cuore di bui" (ox heart) tomatoes, at the market, and I greedily snatched up some slender, what I have always called "pickling", cukes, when I ran into them in the market last week. I planned on putting up a couple of jars of my favorite "Blue Ribbon Dill pickles" for my winter stash, but, as fortune would have it, my rss feed from Food In Jars arrived and there was a recipe for a big bowl of overnight refrigerator pickles that were destined for a potluck.  I knew that those slender pickling cukes had a new destination coming right up. If you like to can and think that you need to make large batches of jam or pickles or whatever and are put off by it, then this is a canning blog for you. I ran across Food in Jars on Facebook quite a while back and fell in love with author Marisa's straight forward approach to putting any and everything up on a small scale so that your cupboard  is overflowing with beautifully filled jars of tasty treats to brighten up meals after the flush of summer bounty is just a memory.  I have always enjoyed canning (which in reality is jarring) and managed to put a few jars of this, that and the other up, over the years. My mom and grandmothers did too, of course,, and although I only canned with my mom a few times, and never with my grandmothers, I did enjoy many a jarred green bean, piccalilli, fruit preserves and jams from all of them over the years. I, so vividly, remember eating myself sick, literally, on my grandmother's dill pickles and yet still was able to enjoy the gallon jar she sent home with me. I think I fell in love with the old ball jar with the lead lid almost as much as the pickles. Over the years I  have almost always had my home jarred dill pickles on my shelves no matter where I have been, if I could get the ingredients.  Living in Colorado, I religiously put up several varieties of salsas over the year and still sorely miss the aroma of roasting of chiles that can fill the air in the autumn. Sigh....
my back door herb pots
My assorted fresh herbs

Anyway, this is a fast and easy recipe that doesn't have any real concrete measurements and lends itself to countless variations depending on what you have on hand. Food in Jar's Marisa used fresh mint and cilantro. I had an abundance of mint and basil, so that is what I used. I also used a couple of stems of horse radish leaves to not only give a little kick, but it also helps keep your pickles crisp, according to a surrogate grandmother of mine.  I will give you  some rough idea of what I used and if you would like an excellent visual step by step guide guide giving you a better idea of amounts, you can find that recipe on Food in Jars' blog here . I must insist that if you like pickles you are going to love these, as they are quick and delicious, not too tart, ever so slightly sweet and impossible to stop eating. I should know!
Pickles after one night in the fridge

Fresh Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles  

Makes approximately 2 quarts of pickle slices in brine

Ingredients:

1kg /2.2 pounds  or about 10 or so medium sized cucumbers(the spiny type used for pickles)
1/2- 1 small red onion, or shallot, or spring onion, chopped up, but not too fine
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tiny hot peppers, I used dried ones that I crumbled 
handful of mint, I like spearmint,  rough chopped
half handful of fresh basil, tear or chop into medium pieces 
2 horseradish leaves and stem, I cut the leaves and stems into long thirds 

Brine:

2 c / 16oz / 475g apple cider vinegar 
2 c / 16oz / 475g  water
1/4 c / 1 3/4 oz / 45-50g sugar
1-2 tsp / 5-10 g salt  (I tasted my brine till it seemed right to me)

Method:

Wash the cucumbers, slice into the thickness you like. I hovered between 1/4- 1/2 inch sized rounds.
Place everything except the cucumbers in bottom of a glass or metal bowl. 
Top with the cucumber slices.
Mix your brine ingredients in a sauce pan and heat till the salt and sugar melts, but don't boil.
Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers and all.
Set aside to cool.
Once cooled to room temperature either cover the bowl as is 
or put into a plastic container with a well sealing lid and
place in the refrigerator to do its magic over night.

They will be ready to eat the next day.
They will last at least two weeks, probably longer in the refrigerator, but I bet they won't last that long. 
You can count on it. 
Fresh refrigerator pickles

3 comments:

Adri said...

First - those are some grogeous cuore di bue tomatoes. They are one of my favorites, big meaty darlings that are rich and sweet. And yes, pickles do make me think of summer. I always enjoy going to the County Fair and looking at all of the canning entries. Some of the pickles that people enter are glorious. I make lots of jams and jellies, but I have never tried pickles.

Marla, I am SO glad you are back to normal and busy in the kitchen. That is truly wonderful to see. Have a great summer!

Melody said...

Marla, You have hit on one of my favorite summer foods! I slice my cucumbers and onions on a mandolin and I add chunks of tomato to the mix. Sometimes a slice of a hot pepper is thrown in for good measure!. Of course when the tomato is added it doesn't store well so,we just eat the batch and make more the next day ! Can't wait to enjoy the summer bounty of our garden! Melody

Bella Baita View said...

Thanks Adri, although I am not sure how back to normal I am again. Hope to get back to some semblance of a schedule. Seems my comment didn't get published before.
That sounds good with the tomato Melody, so I will add that to my next batch.

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