In a Pickle

“Are you gonna eat that?”

There’s always a pickle.  For where two or three are gathered together in delis of any name, there is a pickle in the midst of them.

And for some reason, there is always a pickle lover, and a pickle disdainer.

In our family, I’m a lover.

There is a bar-restaurant in Durham called Alley 26.  One of the reasons why I love it so much is they have wonderful, interesting small plates.  They have something called Butter & Salt, which is literally salted butter, a few radish slices, and some sliced French bread.  It’s the perfect example of treating simple ingredients with respect and in doing so, elevating the dish.

One of their dishes is a pickle plate.  It’s five or six different pickled items.  They do the pickling in house, so they’re fresh, delicious, and unusual.  My two favorites are cherries and pineapple.

The pineapple is pickled with jalapeño but there’s no heat.  You just get the super fruity flavor of the chile, which is the perfect foil to the sweet acid of the pineapple.  I was drinking rum, so I forgot to ask about the recipe, so I offer you my best approximation of the dish.    

Last summer, a friend gave me some green tomatoes.  I fried them, but he kept giving them to me, so I decided to pickle some.  I’d never pickled anything before, but I thought, “What the hey!”.

They turned out bright and sour and garlicky.  And to me, the best part was how gorgeous they were in the jar.  I kept looking at them thinking, “I made that!”

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Pickled Green Tomatoes

These pickles come from the website Garden Betty. 

1 pound green slicing tomatoes (or 1 & 1/2 pounds green cherry tomatoes)

2 teaspoons dill seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

4 garlic cloves, peeled

Cut larger (slicing) tomatoes into 1/2-inch wedges, and cut smaller (cherry or grape) tomatoes in half.

Brine

1 cup white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt

In a small saucepan, bring all of the brine ingredients to a boil and stir until the salt is dissolved. Remove the brine from heat.

Fill a hot, clean quart jar with the pickling spice mix of your choice. Pack the jar tightly with the tomatoes.

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes, covering them completely and leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Stick a chopstick or “bubbling” tool into the jar and move it around to release any trapped air bubbles.

Wipe the rim clean, seal with a lid and band, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Jalapeño Pickled Pineapple

1 pineapple, cut into bite-size chunks, don’t use the hard rind part

3 cups apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

½ teaspoon pink peppercorns

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 jalapeño

2 quart jars

Prepare the jalapeño

Cut the top and end off the jalapeño.  Cut it in half length-wise and cut each piece in half again, so that you have four long strips.  Discard all the seeds.  Carefully, using a paring knife, shave off all the vein, so that all you have left is bright green flesh.

Place the vinegar, sugar, lime juice, peppercorns and kosher salt into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir until sugar dissolves.

Put half of the pineapple into each jar.  Place two strips of jalapeño in each, sliding them down along the outside of the pineapple, against the glass.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the top of each jar, allow ½ inch headspace. The vinegar should barely cover the fruit.

Chowchow Down

Chow chow: A Chinese dog descended from the Spitz.  In China, they’re called “puffy-lion dog”, or Songshi Quan.  Weighing in at about 60 pounds, they’re very furry, with squishy puppy-like faces and purple tongues.Achingly adorable, but not the chowchow we’re looking for.

Chow chow: A dish made by the Pennsylvania Dutch in which vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, beans, and peppers are cut into bite-size pieces and pickled.  Similar to the Italian’s giardiniera, it was a useful way to have bright crunchy vegetables well into the winter. Way closer, but still not the chow chow we’re looking for.

Chow chow: A southern relish made with finely chopped cabbage, green tomatoes, peppers, onions, then pickled.  Used to add a punch of acid and crunch to meals and dishes.  Can be sweet, hot, or a combination.

We have a winner!

Last week I waxed rhapsodic about a meal The Kid and I enjoyed at Chef Ashley Christensen’s Beasley’s Chicken and Honey, in downtown Raleigh.  I spoke about the grit fries and how the addition of acid cut what could have been greasy and heavy, and in the process elevated the dish to one of the tastiest, most balanced items I’ve ever eaten.

That acid took the form of chow chow, which I’d never eaten before. This stuff is delicious on its own.  It’s a puckeringly sour, crunchy, twisted kind of Cole slaw.

But it adds so much dimension to other foods—foods that by themselves, like the fries, taste great for the first few bites, but after a while it’s just too much; your mouth feels coated in grease, and you need a shower and a nap.Slow-cooked meats, like brisket and pork shoulder with lots of fat and connective tissue.  Mayonnaise-based potato salad and macaroni salad can be served with a small dollop of chow chow that is a perfect foil to heaviness.  Stir it into deviled eggs for a briny kick.

This recipe is a mashup of a few different recipes.  I was looking for availability of ingredients, ease of preparation, and unlike many chow chow recipes, one that makes less than a gillion gallons of the stuff.

Chow chow

Makes 6 cupschowchowIngredients

4 large green tomatoes, quartered

1 large sweet onion, quartered

1 medium head cabbage, core removed, chopped into large pieces

¼ cup salt

½ tsp turmeric

2 tbsp pickling spices…enclosed in cheese cloth and tied off

2 small jalapenos (optional)

3 cup sugar

2 ½ cups apple cider vinegar

3 bell peppers, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green

pinch of allspice

InstructionsWorking in batches, pulse veggies in food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to large bowl and stir in salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, line a colander with cheese cloth. Pour in chopped veg and rinse in cool water until the salt is mostly gone. Remove as much water as possible by squeezing vegetables in cheese cloth.  Let sit in colander in the sink for an hour.Transfer vegetables to a large nonreactive pot and stir in vinegar and all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month. Or parcel into zip-top freezer bags and freeze for up to three months.To country folk and farmers, wasting food is a huge sin.  And with no freezers, or produce regularly coming in from warmer climes, one needed to be creative to enjoy bright flavors and crunchy textures in the dead of winter.

Chow chow fits the bill—and luckily, it’s a hugely versatile condiment, and astonishingly delicious.Thanks for your time.