Sweet Summer Bread & Butter Pickles
I have fairy godparents. I know I’m lucky, but I'm not the only one. In fact, these fairy godparents have many children and most of them are my dearest friends. Life is kind when it gives us the opportunity to build and belong to an “unconventional” family. How neat is it to think that throughout your travels and challenges you can add some sweet friends and family members to the trail mix? My fairy godfather taught me how to do some landscaping, how to shoot a wooden bow and arrow, and how to make really delicious (and outrageously hot) hotsauce. My fairy godmother can make soul-searing crab cakes from the crabs we scoop up on rainy nights in a dancing dingy. She also makes feather- light zucchini bread, crafts all things, rescues chickens from danger, and welcomes all the crazy rabble to her door with grace and warmth.
These fairy godparents live in an enchanted borough, surrounded by well tended but wild gardens, and the world’s most content clutch of chickens. The chickens love cold spaghetti noodles and sweet corn cut straight from the cob. Really they aren’t so different from us. I am going to miss these folks terribly when I live in far-distant Australia, but I have a feeling that there will be many more idyllic summer weekends shared between us. Going to the beach, eating seafood near the water, jet skiing (on the real stand up deal), and making huge breakfast omelets from the happy chicken eggs.
There are a few mandatory and magical tasks that we have to accomplish when I visit the fairy godparent farm, as I call it. One of them is making pickles from the produce of their beautiful gardens. These are the pickles I want to share with you today. One of the other mandatory tasks is visiting local breweries, returning with full growlers, and watching a really good movie. The Outer Light Brewery in Groton and Beer’d Brewing Co. in Stonington are churning out some pretty righteous, quaffable hops. It went perfectly with our dinner of grilled flank steak, corn on the cob with maple butter, and crispy brown zucchini fritters with creme fraiche from Vermont Creamery. Gosh, I could do that all over again.
I might be a crazy foodie but I think that homemade pickles are just about the best gift you can give to someone. One of my main jobs while I was a line cook was to pickle some of the local produce we received at the restaurant for our beloved pickle plate. Boy, was my pickle repertoire expanded! Pickled green beans, pickled cauliflower, pickled daikon, pickled bok choy...oh and don’t forget my favorite, pickled radishes. Pickling, like all methods of preservation, is about saving a good day. It may seem silly to pour vinegar on ready and in-season produce, but it’s necessary to hold on to some of that July abundance for a colder or a darker day.
With each crunchy pickle comes a memory, all salt and sweet, and something less discernible in-between. Some folks know that a pickled cuke is just reveling in a different, perhaps necessary, taste life. When we pickle things we discover a whole new flavor profile of the veggie or fruit at hand, aside from it’s briney cocktail. These simple pickles are a part of my complete enchantment, another tie to a couple who have fed me in countless ways throughout the years. Where are some of your places of refuge? I've needed to escape the city many times, and I have found that wild and out of bounds is where it's at. But even a garden to watch bright, evanescent humming birds in, while you sip your coffee as they slurp their nectar, that will do just fine.
Since it’s really hot and you want to get to the beach, we won’t even need to boil and fuss about this Kirby crowd. Once we add them to a big lid with a pot, we let them sit in a cool place as the juices get juicier. A couple taste tests throughout the afternoon and then straight into a jar or container to chill.
Sweet Summer Bread and Butter...Pickles
8-10 Kirby cucumbers or pickling cucumbers, medium-thin sliced rounds 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt 1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion ( in little rounds will do) 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced or diced 1 1/2 granulated white sugar 1/4 cup brown sugar 2 cups white vinegar 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 1/2 cup water 2 Tablespoons celery seed 3/4 teaspoon turmeric 1 teaspoon mustard seed (optional) A generousness handful of fresh dill (We used a dukat variety from the garden)
1. Slice cucumbers and other veggies, put in the pot. Add sugars, salt, and spices. Add vinegar and water. Then throw in your roughly chopped dill. You can add a really hot pepper at this point if you would like! This is sort of a lazy quick pickle so you can do other fun things, let the pot sit for a few hours and then taste. Add additional salt if needed. Intuition is a big part of cooking so it's good practice to rebel from recipes a bit. Enjoy by themselves or on top of everything.
May I suggest something crazy? Peanut Butter and Pickle Sushi. Do it!
If I can manage to make pickles like my fairy godparents then maybe one day I can be just like them, with their laughter, and kindness, and passion for a calm home and some steady adventure. That’s my life’s goal. Thank goodness it includes fresh blueberries and hungry visitors. Oh and of course, happy, happy chickens.
Keep cool and see you soon.