When I was a kid, I never thought I would ever be able to make pickles.
They seemed like science — some alchemy that changed these pale vegetables into a mysterious, crunchy food that was fun to eat.
I had seen my Aunt Acie and my mother when they decided to make pickles: bottles and jars and lids were sterilized, pungent liquids were boiled, salt and spices were added. It was all-day affair, maybe even two days.
The kitchen was not open for cooking meals. Cold sandwiches were served or my father would go out for burgers. I stayed away, absolutely sure I would never get the hang of whatever they were doing in there.
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Then in 2001, everything changed. That was when Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby and Dan George wrote their book “Quick Pickles” (Chronicle Books.) They explained that all you need to do is salt your would-be pickles and then rinse them, place your cucumbers or beets or peaches in a nonreactive container, make the appropriate brine and cover and refrigerate.
These quick pickles, as they are called, are not put up to last for years. They are to enjoy within two weeks or a month. But trust me, they won’t last that long.
Bread and Butter Pickles
3 pounds of pickling cucumbers (less than 5 inches long)
1 large or 2 medium onions
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice (optional)
2 cups cider vinegar
2-1/2 cups brown sugar
Trim and discard the blossom ends and slice the cucumbers into 1/2-inch slices. Peel the onions and slice. In a nonreactive bowl, toss them with salt, cover and chill for two hours. Drain, rinse and drain again. In a nonreactive pot, combine all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar, reduce the heat and simmer three minutes, then pour over cucumbers and onions. The cucumbers should be covered or slightly afloat. Cool to room temperature then cover and refrigerate. You can eat after 24 hours and they will keep for a month.
Famous Back Eddy’s House Pickles
2 pounds pickling cucumbers
3 tablespoons kosher salt
5 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups cider vinegar
2-1/4 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons allspice berries, cracked
2 teaspoons toasted coriander seed, cracked
Trim the ends of the cucumbers and cut them into rounds. Combine the salt and the cucumbers in a nonreactive bowl, toss and cover with ice cubes. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Drain and rinse the cucumbers. In a medium sauté pan, combine the oil, garlic, carrots, peppers, and onions and cook over medium heat 5-10 minutes, until the carrots start to soften.
Remove from heat, drain and combine with cucumbers. In a nonreactive pan, combine the vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to a boil and boil five minutes. Pour the syrup over the vegetables and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate. This pickle will keep for a month, refrigerated.
Balsamic Pickled Peaches
1 cup balsamic vinegar, or white balsamic
3/4 cup sweet vermouth, or dry vermouth
1 cup pineapple juice
8 peaches, pitted and cut into wedges
In a nonreactive saucepan, combine the liquids and bring to a boil. Add the peaches and remove from heat. Cool to room temperature uncovered, then cover and refrigerate. Eat after 48 hours. They will keep for 6 weeks. White balsamic and dry vermouth make a lighter colored pickle.
Source: “Quick Pickles,” by Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby and Dan George (Chronicle Books)
Lou Jane Temple’s road to food has been a long and winding one. First as a rock n roll caterer back stage to the stars, then with her own Kansas City based catering company, Cafe Lulu, food writing, novelist, private chef. Lou Jane has written and had published nine culinary mysteries and one cookbook. She recently moved back to Kansas City and eagerly awaits the next chapter of her food career.