Friday, August 21, 2009

Pickle Adventure: Italy Road Trip

pickle girl readers:

I am setting out on a pickle adventure! Ned and I will be driving from Italy's heel to toe: Puglia>Basilicata>Calabria!

I'll be back on September 8th with loads of pickle recipes and stories from the bottom of the boot. Until then, enjoy the rest of summer.

(Photo courtesy of The Food Section.)


Pickled Peaches

This one goes out to Diana and Andrea. Enjoy peach season, ladies! Recipe courtesy of Gourmet, August 2005.

6 1/2 cups cold water
24 firm-ripe small peaches (6 to 7 lb)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
4 tsp pickling spice
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Special equipment: 6 (1-pt) canning jars with lids and screw bands; a boiling-water canner, or a deep 10- to 12-qt pot plus a flat metal rack; an instant-read thermometer

Prepare peaches:
1. Dissolve vitamin C powder in 6 cups water in a large bowl (to acidulate water).

2. Cut a shallow X in bottom of each peach with a sharp paring knife and blanch in 4 batches in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling water 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water and let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel peaches, then halve lengthwise and pit. Add peaches to acidulated water and let stand 10 minutes, then drain well in a colander.

3. Toss peaches with sugar in a 6-quart wide heavy pot and chill, covered, at least 8 and up to 12 hours.

Sterilize jars and lids:
1. Wash jars, lids, and screw bands in hot soapy water, then rinse well. Dry screw bands. Put jars on rack in canner and add enough water to cover jars by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, covered, then boil 10 minutes. Cover lids with water in a small saucepan and heat until thermometer registers 180°F (do not let boil). Keep jars and lids submerged in hot water, covered, until ready to use.

Cook and can peaches:
1. Add vinegar, spice, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water to peaches (sugar will have dissolved and will have drawn out peach juices) and bring to a boil over moderate heat, skimming off foam. Reduce heat and simmer until peaches are barely tender, about 3 minutes.

2. Remove jars and lids from water, reserving water in canner, and transfer to a clean kitchen towel, then divide peaches among jars using a slotted spoon. Return peach-cooking liquid to a boil, then pour into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at top. Run a thin knife between peaches and sides of jars to eliminate air bubbles.

Seal and process jars:
1. Wipe off rims of filled jars with a dampened kitchen towel, then firmly screw on lids with screw bands. Put sealed jars on rack in canner and, if necessary, add enough hot water to cover jars by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, covered. Boil jars 20 minutes, then transfer with tongs to a towel-lined surface to cool. Jars will seal as they cool (if you hear a ping, that signals that the vacuum formed at the top of the jar has made the lid concave).

2. After jars have cooled 12 to 24 hours, press center of each lid to check that it's concave, then remove screw band and try to lift off lid with your fingertips. If you can't, the lid has a good seal. Store in a cool dry place up to 6 months. Promptly put any jars that haven't sealed in the refrigerator and use them first.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Discerning Pickler: Cultivating the Handcrafted Aesthetic

My love of quality, handcrafted kitchen items is not limited to pickles (shocking, I know!). The lack of storage space in a NYC apartment requires every functional object to also be beautiful. Here's a round up of my favorites:

Iris Hantverk wood brushes, made by Sweden's National Society of the Blind
hemp twine, made in Hungary
Things for Bread cutting board
Weck canning jars, from Germany
Transylvanian Images linen napkins

Where to get the look:

Selvedge Drygoods
Rose and Radish, San Francisco, CA
Tortoise General Store, Venice, CA
Ancient Industries
DWR Tools for Living
Brook Farm General Store
Moon River Chattel, NYC
Green Depot

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chef Recipe: Cal Elliott's Pickled Watermelon Rind

As if the Prohibition-era cocktails weren't enough to lure pickle girl to Rye, Cal Elliott's grown-up menu offers an immensely satisfying slice of Americana in a moody, 19th-century setting.

This talented chef--of Dumont and Dressler fame--garnishes his succulent braised short rib sandwich (with onion jam and creamy, fresh horseradish) with watermelon rind pickles.

Chef Elliott's candy corn-shaped rinds retain just enough pink flesh to recall a half-licked Jolly Rancher. If only I could order these candied bits by the pound.

Special thanks to Cal Elliott for sharing his version of watermelon rind pickles with pickle girl.

Day One:
2 gallons rind cut into 1" cubes
1 cup salt
1 tsp. alum

1. Mix the salt and alum in 1 quart of cold water to dissolve the salt
2. Pour mixture over rinds, weigh the rinds down with a plate and cover with with cold water. Let stand for 8 hours
3. Drain and soak and rinse in cold water

Day Two:
6 c white distilled vinegar
4 cinnamon sticks
30 cloves
6 c sugar

1. Bring vinegar to a boil with the spices
2. Add rind and 2 cups of sugar
3. Bring back to a boil
4. Remove from heat to cool
5. When cooled, add 2 more cups of sugar and bring back to a boil
6. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining 2 cups of sugar

Process in sterilized jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to one month.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The People's Pickle

Today's Tasting Table reports Rick Field, pickle superstar, has done it again. Add The People's Pickle to your small-batch artisanal foods shopping list. Now availble at Whole Foods stores nationwide.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Chef Recipe: Stephen Stryjewski's Pickled Watermelon Rind

Everything I adore about the pork-loving city of New Orleans can be summed up in Chef Donald Link and Chef Stephen Stryjewski's menu at Cochon.

The chefs host an in-house boucherie to create their own andouille, smoked bacon, and head cheese, but I am especially fond of their homemade pickle prowess.

The spicy, grilled pork ribs with diced watermelon pickle (pictured) are impetus enough to jump on and buy a ticket to Nola. Right. Now. While you're at it, don't miss Cochon Butcher too. This down-the-block spin-off is inspired by old world meat markets and features a wide range of house-made salumi and sausages. The Cochon muffaletta is always nestled in my purse for the plane ride home--that is, when I don't have time for a glass of wine and charcuterie at the "Swine Bar."

Special thanks to Chef Stryjewski, who graciously shared his pickled watermelon rind recipe with pickle girl:

4 qts prepared watermelon rind
3 T pickling lime
2 qts cold water
8 cups sugar
1 qt white vinegar
1 qt water
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Tie in a spice bag:
1 T whole cloves
1 T whole allspice
1 T whole coriander
¼ t mustard seed
1 large piece of ginger
3 sticks cinnamon

Day One:
1. Prepare the rind by removing the green outer skin and the pink interior and cut into 1” by 1” pieces.
2. Dissolve the lime in 2 gallons of water and add the rind allow to soak for 12 hours.

Day Two:
1. Drain and rinse the rind 3 times or until the water runs clear.
2. Add remaining ingredients to a non reactive pot and bring to a simmer
3. Add the rind and simmer over low to medium heat until the rind takes on a translucent appearance.
4. Can in water bath for 10 minutes.

pickle girl's two cents: the easiest way to prep the rind is to separate it from the flesh the way one would to segment a grapefruit. Using a sharp chef's knife, slice off just enough rind from the top and bottom of the melon to expose the flesh and allow the fruit to stand upright on the cutting board. Next, follow the contour of the fruit to slice away all rind in large pieces. Remove the green skin with a vegetable peeler, then slice into 1"-long batons.

You can use the watermelon flesh to make:
* watermelon gazpacho
* frozen watermelon-lime bars
* watermelon panzanella

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Lightly Pickled Red Currants

Inspired by Judy Rogers, pickle goddess of Zuni Cafe fame. Adapted by pickle girl over the years.

2 pints red currants
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 1/3 cup Muscavado or brown sugar
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 Balinese long pepper, snapped in half (optional)
1 bay leaf

1. Wash currants, setting aside smashed berries to make jelly or juice.
2. Bring liquids and spices to a boil until sugar is dissolved.
3. Allow brine to cool. Meanwhile, fill two quart jars with currants, stems and all.
4. When brine has cooled, pour over currants, put lids on jars and refrigerate.

Pickles in the News: The Pickle: No Second Fiddle

In catching up on the past week's pickle news, I came across a post from Adamah, which points to this thoughtful article in The Jewish Daily Forward on the virtues of the humble pickle--and its cultural importance here in NYC.

Leah Koening writes:

...But New York’s pickles were direct descendants of those eaten in Eastern Europe, where pickling was a central part of the diet. (Imagine living through a bitter Lithuanian winter without access to fresh produce, and the pickle’s value skyrockets.) Steeped in saltwater loaded with garlic, dill and spices, these pickles served as a tart connecter between the immigrants’ new home and the land they left behind.