Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's Pickling Time

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's Pickling Time

Article excerpt

Cucumbers are what's going on in my garden right now. Vining and climbing, curling their delicate, pale-green tendrils around strings we've tied between bamboo poles. They adore the recent wet and coolish weather and the plants are full of yellow flowers.

Nature once again is a genius with her flavor combinations and timing. Just as the cucumbers ripen, the tall dill plants are forming flower heads with seeds. You can add snipped dill fronds to cucumber, sour cream and onion salads or put the whole flowering heads into pickles brining in a crock.

It's pickling time. You can't stop me.

I've got a fridge's worth of jars filled with tasty pickle slices and wedges. You may find me around 11 p.m., fork in hand, snacking right from the jar.

Like most everything else this year, my cukes got off to a slow start. So since I needed to make pickles for this story and for a Slow Food Pittsburgh demo, I bought a bushel of them from Rick Zang at the Farmers' Market Cooperative of East Liberty. A bushel is a lot of cucumbers. No one ever needs that many.

I shared some with a new young friend, David, who was visiting with his parents. So many cukes, I implored him to share them with his Pittsburgh pickling buddies. He also snipped some horseradish leaves from our rangy patch in order to keep the pickles crisp, a technique that was new to me. I know that you can cover the surface of a crock of pickles with grape leaves to keep them crunchy. My trick is to ice the cukes before adding them to brine or pickling liquid. Sometimes I ice them overnight in the fridge but one day I'll have to try the horseradish leaves. I can't think of another use for them, in any case.

As part of my pickling frenzy, I made a delightfully easy recipe from a New York friend, Bambe Levine. These quick pickles are great because you can make them at any time of year, using a hothouse seedless cuke from the store, and the recipe is easily cut in half. They'd be wonderful with a platter of smoked fish, adding a crunchy, fresh contrast.

From a new book, "Pickles and Preserves" by Andrea Weigl, I made what has become a house favorite, her Spicy and Sour Refrigerator Pickles. They were especially good prepared with the sweet onions we've got in abundance right now. I'm working up another batch (recipe at post-gazette.com/food).

Andrea is a Pittsburgher from West View; her mom still lives here, but she's transplanted to Raleigh, N.C., where she lives with her husband and daughter. She's a food writer for the Raleigh News & Observer.

Andrea says that she wrote the book because she became "an avid canner." Her canning obsession started with strawberry jam and then she moved on to peach preserves and Jean Anderson's yellow squash pickles. …

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