Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm Pickle Silly!!!

The season's change to summer used to not matter much to me since I worked on a cruise ship in the Caribbean for so long, and it was pretty much summer all year round. Now I'm in the mountains again, surrounded by folks who have gardens. Soon I was overrun with yellow crook neck squash, (or yeller squarsh as they's call back home) and need to figure out different things to do with it. For some reason, I thought pickles.

Mama always made pickles every summer, as did all women when I was growing up. Now it doesn't seem to be much of a priority since you can buy them for a third of what it cost to can some, not to mention the time and effort. My mother would make a few of my favorites every summer, lime pickles, bread and butter pickles, and chow-chow. For those of you unfamiliar with chow-chow, it is a relish we hillbillies eat with our pinto beans.

I had copied some recipes from Alton Brown on Good Eats, one of my favorite hosts and shows. They were both what you would call "Quick Pickles" that do not require all the elaborate canning processes. Basically put the vegetable in the jar, pour the "brine" over it, and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of weeks. These will not keep on the shelf in your cupboard through the year. Here is a picture of what he calls "Fire Crackers" the recipe is down below. I am also including his easy Bread and Butter Pickles. The two recipes are similar in the brine. Both take two weeks to set.

Speaking of which, I have discovered a wonderful resource for recipes... it's something called the internet. Invented by Al Gore to provide folks with recipes for cooking nearly anything, and to see pictures of naked ladies. I found nearly a million yellow squash recipes, and nearly all of them were the same. OK a few variations here and there, but basically the same. I figured I could pretty much cobble up my own version from these files... recipe files, not naked lady ones.

The first one I made was a Yellow Squash Relish. I had no idea how this would taste but I thought I'd give it a try. Keep in mind, in addition to the squash I also got zucchini, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, etc. so I would have a vast array of ingredients to choose from. Of course the only problem remaining would be the spices. Now I keep, on-hand, a fairly decent collection of spices, but I did not have turmeric, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and so-on. This was where it ran into money, also I needed jars, lids, and caps. I got all my spices for under $20 and they will do me for a while, (my mother had a bottle of garlic powder for around 17 years, she cooked very plain). Below is the recipe.

Yellow Squash Relish

4 cups squash and/or zucchini (diced)
1 cup onion (diced)
½ cup red bell pepper
1 cup white vinegar
1 ½ cup white sugar
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp hot pepper flakes
¼ cup kosher salt
1 cup water

Cut the yellow squash and zucchini, in quarters, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and dice them extremely small. I dice up 2 cups of squash and 2 cups of the zucchini. Chop one onion into small dice, it should be a cup, as well as a red or green bell pepper, use about half a cup. Red looks better.

Place in a large bowl and sprinkle ¼ cup salt and add 1 cup water. Stir well and let stand 1 hour in the refrigerator. Drain well and rinse with cold water twice. Transfer this into a couple of jars. Bring vinegar, sugar, and all remaining ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour hot mixture over vegetables in the jars. Let cool then refrigerate, then use as needed. By the way, you can slice the squash and make these in a more traditional method.

Fire Cracker Carrots

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cider vinegar
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp mustard seed
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp chili flakes
2 dry chilis
1 lb baby carrots

Combine all ingredients, except the carrots and dry chilis, in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 mins. Place the dry chilis on top and pour the brine over the carrots already in the jar, seal and refrigerate for 2 weeks. I used split green serrano peppers instead of the dried red chilis.

Bread & Butter Pickles

1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
1 ½ cup sugar
1 tbs salt
½ tsp mustard seed
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp celery seed
½ tsp pickling spice
2 med cucumbers
½ onion (sliced)

Slice the cucumbers and the onion into thin slices. Place in a jar. Combine all brine ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 mins. Pour over the cucumbers and onions already in the jar, seal and refrigerate for 2 weeks.

Last year I did a post about a great restaurant in Charleston called Jestines. I fell in love with her Icebox Pickles, so I had to make those too! You can see by the picture they're fairly light and require only 48 hrs. to set. Here is the amazingly easy recipe.

Jestine's Icebox Pickles

6 small cucumbers
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tsp dried dill
1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Slice cucumbers and place in a clean, heat proof container. Add sugar, salt, herbs and pepper flakes. Heat vinegar and water to a low boil; pour over cucumbers. Refrigerate for 48 hours.

Try these recipes out and let me know how they go. I like these because they do not require all the canning equipment, weather forecasts, witchcraft, and almanacs just to turn out a pickle or two. I had fun making these and will have even more fun enjoying these and giving some away. Alright now, get to picklin'.