Do you know how many things you can make with pickles? This is a subject I have become keenly interested in lately due to the fact that I have an abundance in my refrigerator. How did this happen?
Earlier this year, in April, Matt and I joined a farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) through NYU’s food and nutrition department. We decided to purchase a full share of vegetables. This means that each week for 26 weeks, that began in June and end in November, I go to the pick up location, which is about a 5 minute walk from my apartment, and collect my share of vegetables. We also purchased half shares of cheese, eggs, and fruit so every other week we are entitled to 8 oz of cheese, a dozen eggs, and fresh fruit. All of the food is organic and from local farms in upstate New York.
We initially decided this would be a great way to support the local economy and contribute to preserving organic farm land - not to mention the welfare of the farmers and their families who cut out the middle men and therefore reap more profit. I was also curious about which foods are harvested at what times in this region. Maybe the farm CSA contributed to my ease with the Market Basket exercise in class. As a bonus it turned out to be wonderful that we locked into food prices in April, now that they are rising. The price per week wound up being $25, which given New York City food prices is very reasonable. Especially considering that all goods are organic.
Back to the pickles. Every week we receive a variety of different vegetables… but one thing remains steady. The cucumbers. Who knew they grew so well in New York? Sometimes they are the large salad cucumbers, and sometimes they are smaller thin-skinned cucumbers. I have been able to manage most of the delivered cucumbers with salad and snacks but this last delivery entitled me to nearly 4 pounds of cucumbers. Can you imagine? For two people in a week… that is a lot of cucumber. I selected the small to medium thin-skinned pickle (saves time since you don’t need to peel them). Little did I know that they were the perfect kind for pickling.
My Bread and Butter Pickles
I returned home, washed, dried and packed all my produce in to the refrigerator. The next thing I did was hit the books… cookbooks. I was in search of ways to utilize all of these cucumbers. Unfortunately, this vegetable rarely takes center stage in a recipe and usually plays back up in various cold salads or garnishes. Due to all the previous deliveries of cucumbers I was tired of the cucumber salads and had already made raita (an Indian garnish with yogurt, cucumber, and cumin). I reached for my cooking magazines next. Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, Martha Stewart, Diet and Nutrition, Fine Cooking… nothing until I opened my August edition of Cooking Light. As I turned through the pages I came across an article titled “Curing & Pickling – Preserve seasonal produce that you can enjoy weeks later with these time-honored methods”. Perfect!
Within the article I found a recipe for bread and butter pickles. I knew these were designed to be sweet (which I do not particularly like) and therefore I reduced the sugar to 1/4 of the amount asked for. I found that these pickles were not very salty, like many store-bought pickles can be, and were delicious! It was super easy to do and I was able to utilize about 2 pounds of my cucumbers. In the end I had a container with about 4 cups of pickles. Since I do not can or jar foods – I had about 2 weeks to use them before going bad.
Back to the original question – what can you do with pickles? I made my own tartar sauce - I combined homemade mayonnaise, chopped pickles, pickle juice, and chopped scallion - and served it with grilled fish sandwiches. I made a tuna salad with lots of chopped pickles, a few tablespoons of pickle juice, and homemade mayonnaise. A side dish of German-style red potato salad with string beans and dressed it with an oil and vinegar dressing that had chopped pickles and pickle juice and lots of fresh ground pepper. A bulgar wheat salad with fresh chopped corn, tomato, scallion, fava beans and what else but pickles! Tonight we are having a few friends over for dinner and as an appetizer I plan on serving pickles with a grain mustard, sharp cheddar, and crackers as an appetizer. Who knew there were so many possibilities with pickles? Before this week, I don’t remember the last time I even purchased pickles. Let me say this… when farmer’s caught onto the idea of preserving vegetables this way after an abundant harvest to enhance the flavor and extend shelf life, they were onto something good.
FInd my recipe for pickles (without the extra sugar) in the recipe section or click the following link:
Bread and Butter Pickles