Get Yourself Into a Pickle
More and more often this season we’ve heard questions and comments about pickling. In part because our producers can never seem to grow enough pickling cucumbers to satisfy the ever-increasing demand, we’ve been exploring some of the other tangy treats you can make with local products to enjoy throughout the year.
First off – what is a pickle? Although the word “pickle” in North America has come to mean cucumbers fermented and preserved in a vinegary brine of some sort, the word started out as a verb that describes the act of preserving things using anaerobic fermentation (without oxygen.) The recipes and primary ingredients may change but for North American recipes the process is essentially the same, whatever your flavour: fill a sterile jar with your favourite pickling victim, pour boiling brine overtop, close the jar and then cook the whole thing in boiling water. This changes a little for dishes like Korean kimchi (check out a recipe here) or sauerkraut but today we want to talk about the familiar stuff.
At the Market we’ve got a few different producers working on pickling, each with their own little twist.
- If you haven’t found pickling cucumbers and are craving classic cucumber pickles, it’s okay to let someone else do the work for you. Ulla at A Little of This makes dills, yum-yums and, upon request, bread-and-butter pickles and she offers great advice for people looking to do their own. Ulla also started making pickled asparagus last June and learned that Thunder Bay likes those funny green spears almost as much as the cucumber variety – they’re hard to keep in stock. If you or someone you know has an asparagus patch growing in the yard, try pickling it. (This site is a great resource for home pickling and freezer preserving, even if it’s a bit messy.)
Pickled asparagus looks (and tastes) gorgeous on a pickle tray, but it also makes a mean garnish for savoury drinks like Caesars and, laid alongside a hot dog inside the bun, can turn an ordinary tube steak on the bbq into something spectacular.
- If you’ve got a surplus of garlic, consider pickling whole cloves. Sample a jar of H&P Jams & Jellies’ version of pickled garlic and you’ll understand instantly why we recommend this – and why people like Chef Nikos like to use it. Henry Wielobob of the talented H&P duo pickles whole cloves of fresh garlic in a brine of vinegar, sugar and salt, and the resulting treat is still crunchy and garlicky-hot without the obnoxious eye-stinging pong of the fresh stuff. We’ve been fighting over it right out of the jar in our house but if it lasts long enough we’ll unhesitatingly put it into a pickle tray, slice it onto pizza or salad or plop it into a dry martini or a Caesar as a garnish.
- If you ever find yourself with more eggs than you know what to do with, you can always pickle them. Years ago when the Market closed for weeks at a time after Christmas, Jenny from Tarrymore Farms found herself with an egg surplus and, being the practical and saving sort of lady that she is, decided to make use of that stack of widemouth Masons she didn’t get enough cucumbers to fill the summer previous. Weeks later when the Market re-opened she arrived with a case of pickled eggs to offer in addition to her fresh eggs and, for many Market patrons, a new addiction was born. Pickled eggs are hard-boiled and peeled first, covered with boiling brine and then – depending on the method you use – refrigerated for short-term use or cooked in a canning bath to keep for up to 6 months. Pickled eggs can be used lots of ways, although most people like to eat them whole; we’ve enjoyed adding them to egg salad sandwiches, potato salad and atop garden salads as well. If you want to create something spectacular on a pickle tray you can include a few slices of beet in your jar; over time the red of the beet will colour your eggs from the outside in, giving you a stunning layer of red around the outside of your sliced egg.
Remember, whether you’re planning to make your own or want to enjoy the pickles of someone else’s labour, our vendors are great resources. Like Jenny G, many of our farmers make pickles for their own families and can offer advice on making your own; and of course our pickling experts are happy to offer the benefit of years of practice. Enjoy!