It Takes A Village…

…to figure out how to pickle.

This week, I decided to try my hand at pickling. After failing to find a pickle that even remotely measured up to my mama’s, I took it upon myself to try to recreate the flavors I remembered so long ago. After looking at her recipe(s), I realized that this process of perfection is one that’s going to take awhile. My mama had at least 4 variations of the recipe alone. From her recipe, as well as from advice from my dad and aunt, I discerned that salt wasn’t a huge factor in this recipe. So, I went with 4 cups of water to one cup of white vinegar and added a couple of small handfuls of salt. We (my awesomely kind cousin Susan helped out this week since my pops was out of town this past weekend) boiled that up and poured them over the medium-sized (though I’d venture to say they were more on the large side) pickling cucumbers and sealed up the jar. There isn’t much to the actual process, it’s just finding the right ratio of salt to vinegar.

We also added a couple of large Serrano peppers to the cucumbers before we added the brine. The peppers are supposed to be red vs. green in color, but those suckers are a lot harder to come by than I thought. So, I opted for the few that I found that were on their way to turning red eventually.  We’ll see if that makes a difference at all.

I also made turnip pickles by chopping up fresh turnips in thinnish, half-moon shaped pieces and adding a little sliced beet (fresh) and the brine mixture I used for the cucumbers. The beets are what give the pickles their hot pink color – obviously.

I’m still unsure of the time frame for when the pickles will be ready. I’m assuming somewhere in the two week mark, but I’ve not been able to get an answer on that yet. Check back!! I’m sure you’ll be bursting with anticipation.

This week made me really aware of how important it can be to have knowledgeable cooks around to help you figure things out. I called a friend about the hot pepper dilemma (we weren’t sure which ones to use) and an aunt about the ratios. I consulted my dad about both. I’m sure I would eventually figure all this out on my own, but why should I go at something alone when I have people willing to help? It’s something I’m still working through, but it apparently does take a village to make me a decent cook.

I was sans a functioning camera this week, so pics are compliments of my phone. 🙂

Beet It.
What Falls Off the Turnip Truck?
Chop, Chop, Chop
An Inside Look.
You're Screwed Now, Cucumbers.

Recipe of the Week: Pickles!

Yes. Pickles.

I will never be able to adequately express how excited I am to have found my mother’s recipe for pickled cucumbers. As I am sure I mentioned at some point in this blog, I’m always on the hunt for anything dumpling related. In addition to my dumpling obsession, I’ve also actively been searching for just the right store-bought version of the pickles my mother and grandmother used to make when I was younger. Why I never thought to just make them myself is beyond me.  Perhaps it was the fact that I didn’t think I had a recipe for it or that I didn’t have the ability to do justice to my memory of those pickles. Either way, I have the recipe in my possession and I am going to pickle my happy little heart out.

These pickles are what cultivated my taste for tart, spicy food. What I should be aiming for is a more vinegary pickle with a nice kick from the pepper. The salt should be underwhelming at best.

In addition to the pickled cucumbers, I am also going to take a stab at making pickled turnips. I bought a jar recently from a specialty market and found them to be really salty and mushy – the opposite of the way they are supposed to taste. Pickled turnips, like the cucumbers, should also offer a nice tart, crisp compliment to sandwiches and snacks.

A couple of things I need to figure out:

1. Once they are jarred, how long before the veggies are ready to eat?

2. What hot peppers work best?

3. Where to go in Houston to get the best pickling cucumbers?

Pickled Cucumbers

For medium sized jars:

4 cups water

pickling cucumbers (small to medium in size)

1 cup white vinegar

handful of salt

2-3 red hot peppers

Wash cucumbers and place in clean jars with the peppers. Mix water, salt and vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour over the pickles leaving a little room empty at the top and seal immediately. Note: You will know when there is enough salt when place a raw egg in the water and it rises to the top.

Pickled Turnips

Turnips, washed, peeled and cut into thin half moon wedges

1 beet (don’t need the whole thing, just using the beet for coloring)

7 cups of water

3 cups vinegar

3/4 cup salt

Wash turnips. Peel, slice and sprinkle with 1/4 cup salt. Leave for an hour.

Rinse, drain and place in clean jars with the sliced beets.

Mix water, rest of the salt and vinegar and bring to a boil. Pour mixture into jars over turnips and seal immediately.

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