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

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.


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.

Eat like a hummingbird

I’ll bet you think this is going to be about dieting, don’t you?

Nope, this is pretty much the opposite.  I’m going to talk about Thanksgiving desserts.  We’ll return to the hummingbird presently.

Last month the Sylvan seniors at Mt Sylvan Methodist Church (5731 N. Roxboro Road) asked me to speak to the group.  I said yes, but was terrified.I’m a talker, not a speaker.  The last time I gave a speech was in junior high, when I ran for 7th grade class president.

I lost.

My talk went well.  I didn’t freeze, or faint, or puke.  And afterward they gave me dessert.  There were many homemade treats, so I enjoyed a sampler plate.  My favorite was a pumpkin bar.  Which is crazy, because I don’t normally like pumpkin. It had great flavor, a delicious gingerbread crust, and a very thin, very crispy top, kind of like a brownie.It was made by Bess Hunnings Smith, the pastor emeritus at Sylvan.  When I requested the recipe, Bess started laughing.  She told me it came from a box.  It was Krusteaz Pumpkin Pie Bar Mix.  It’s available in local stores.

So if you or any of your Thanksgiving guests usually dislike pumpkin, or you desire at least one easy dish for the day, give it a try.When I was a kid, there was a neon-green goo that came in a mini-trash can.  This ‘toy’ really didn’t do anything except gross out adults.  It was called ”Slime”.

When we lived in Puerto Rico, my mom got a fruity gelatin recipe that also was a rather unfortunate shade of green.  My brother christened it Slime.   Even though it isn’t the most appetizing looking dish, it’s really yummy, and everybody in the family loves it.

Ross Family Slimeslime 21 large package lime jello, prepared according to directions, but not set

1-14.5 ounce can of pears, drained

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 envelope Dream Whip (not Cool Whip), prepared according to directions

Put warm-ish prepared jello, cream cheese, and pears into blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Gently fold in Dream Whip.  Pour into 9×13 dish or ring mold and refrigerate until completely set.  Serves 12-16.And now we’ve circled back around to the hummingbird (cake).

You’ve got two simple desserts so far.  This next one is a show stopper that is also simple, but deceptively so.

*Note-no hummingbirds are harmed in the making of this cake.  Rather, it’s full of things that might attract a hummingbird.

Double-glazed hummingbird cakehummingbird cakeCake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple with juice

1 cup canola oil

3 large eggs, beaten

 2 bananas roughly chopped, not mashed

½ cup toasted pecan pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla


hummingbird glaze

2 tablespoon melted butter

1 tablespoon rum

1 can cream of coconut (make sure you get coconut cream, and not piña colada mix)

2 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  Generously grease 10 cup Bundt or tube pan.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.Remove 2 tablespoons juice from pineapple.  Set aside for glazes.

Add pineapple, oil, eggs, banana, nuts, and vanilla.  Stir by hand until just blended—don’t beat.

Pour batter into Bundt.  Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean, but moist.  Place cake, still in pan, onto cooling rack set on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes.Mix glaze #1: Whisk 1 cup of powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon pineapple juice, rum, and enough butter to make glaze that can be drizzled.

Invert still hot cake onto rack, and remove cake from pan.  Drizzle with glaze #1.Let cake finish cooling completely.

Glaze #2: Into powdered sugar whisk 1 tablespoon pineapple juice and enough coconut cream to make glaze.  Spoon over cooled cake.  Allow glaze to set before serving.Serves 16.

Any (or all) of these desserts would be great for turkey day.   They’re quick, and can be prepared well in advance.

And to retain some sanity during the holidays, it’s wise take any opportunity to cut yourself some slack.Thanks for your time.