Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bread and Butter Pickles, Quick & Easy

I leave pickle prep to the pros, to friends who excel at this tricky endeavor or turn to commercial brands that we like. Not so with pickled carrots, pickled asparagus, dilled beans, pickled peppers, even pickled eggs - they don’t count. Those are all easy, forgiving items that are hard to mess up, unlike real pickles made from cucumbers where it’s all about the crunch and the flavor that comes from sitting around for weeks or months… plus a little magic I think.

Life changed when I found Quick Pickles: easy recipes with bigflavor by Schlesinger, Willoughby and George. Their recommended pre-salting technique all but guarantees the requisite crunch, and the flavor of my very first batch of Bread-and-Butter Pickles convinced me that these three fellows are indeed Pickle Wizards.

The boat galley was short a few ingredients for the first try, turmeric for example, so I used a packaged pickling spice blend and added a mild yellow curry as a substitute for the turmeric. The resulting pickles were such a hit that this first small batch disappeared in less than a day. The three-step recipe is easy peasy:
  1. Salt some sliced cukes and onions and chill for an hour or two.  
  2. Prepare the brine on stovetop or in the microwave.
  3. Pour the hot brine over the drained and rinsed pickles and let sit until cooled to room temperature.
That’s it, 1-2-3, pickle magic. It's just that easy.

Quick Bread and Butter Pickles 
(the test batch)
 Adapted from “Your Classic Bread-and-Butter Pickles”, in Quick Pickles by Schlesinger, Willoughby and George, 2001

6 small pickling cucumbers (less than 5 inches long)
1 medium Walla Walla sweet onion
1 tablespoon kosher or other coarse salt
2 tablespoons pickling spice
1 teaspoon curry powder (I used garam masala)
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar

Trim both ends of the cucumbers, peel the onion and cut both into ¾ inch rounds. Add the cukes and onions to a glass jar or non-reactive bowl; toss them with the salt, cover and hold in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Drain, rinse well and drain again, then set aside.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a microwaveable container and bring to a boil. Remove to stir and dissolve the brown sugar. Reheat to return to a boil, and then pour the liquid over the cucumbers and onions. The cucumbers should be covered or slightly afloat, if not add more heated vinegar and brown sugar using the same proportions.

Allow to cool to room temperature; then cover and refrigerate. Sample a few as soon as they are cool, but the authors note that the flavor will deepen if you let them sit overnight. (We couldn’t wait and consumed them all before 24 hours passed.) The book promises they will keep, covered and refrigerated, for a month or more. Betcha can't eat just one. (grin)

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