I love to make pickles. I’ve pickled all kinds of things: cucumbers (duh), beets, peaches, watermelon rind, cherries. I still haven’t tried asparagus, but it’s on my radar screen.
Ironically, I hated pickles for years. Couldn’t stand ‘em. I think it was some kind of long-term associative trauma: I spent one youthful (and really, really awful) summer working in a pickle factory–again, another story for another day.
But they’re growing on me as I get older (I read something once about our tastebuds needing stronger and stronger flavors as we age–maybe that’s part of it), especially the sort of artisanal, interesting varieties that are starting to pop up in restaurants.
The good news is: they’re super-easy to make, and some kinds are total instant gratification.
This formula came from a restaurant Lee and I loved in Charleston. It was a hole-in-the-wall soul-food kind of place, called Jestine’s Kitchen. The food was excellent, but it was the dish of pickles that really stole the show. I was looking around, thinking about asking the waitress whether they were made in-house, when I happened to see a framed newspaper article on the wall by our table. In the article, the owner of the place described how to make the pickles. I snapped a picture of the article with my iPhone, so now I have the formula.
Jestine’s Awesome Sweet Pickles
–a bunch of small pickling cucumbers (I suspect 8 or 10 would fill a quart jar)
–one sweet onion (I used a cippolini)
–a couple handfuls of sugar (probably 3/4 cup or so)
–a few peppercorns (but I didn’t have any here in the mountains, so I left them out)
Peel and slice the cucumbers, and put in a jar, along with the onion, cut up, and the peppercorns. Add sugar; I like my pickles on the very sweet side, so I was generous.
Fill the jar with a mixture of half water, half white vinegar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, taste to make sure they’re sweet enough before serving. These are what are known as “quick” pickles; you want to eat them within a couple of days, or they’ll start to get mushy.