Years ago, if you asked me to name my favorite food, I would have said dill pickles. I still love the sterile and jarred cucumbers quite a bit. (I was at the Old Market's La Buvette a week or so ago and ate all their pickled mini gherkins before anyone else had the chance.) In fact, it's been four years now, but my 16-year-old sister Emily and I had our biggest and only fight over a pickle.
One of her friends gave her a big jar of whole dill pickles for her twelfth birthday. Whole pickles. The good kind. We only ever got kosher spears or chips in our house, so these were quite the treat. I got hungry for a snack one day while she was at school. Surveying the fridge, I went straight for the goods, thinking she wouldn't notice, and truthfully, she didn't say anything until the moment was right.
Later, we were arguing with my mom over who should get the cell phone the next day. Never had I ever had to share something with this sister 10 years my junior until I came back from Thailand and she had hajacked my phone. (Indeed, she was erasing my address book on the drive to the airport.) I came home early from Thailand, and she, the only (and thus coolest) sixth grader with a cell phone, found herself in joint custody of the electronic.
We were debating about who needed the phone more. Me: I need it in case someone calls me for a job interview. Emily: Brian asked if he could use my phone today, and I couldn't give it to him. Mom and I probably both laughed at that response and out of desperation she cried out, "You stole one of my pickles, too!" We argued on for a moment, and as mom says, I backed her into a corner with my superior wit at which point she shouted, "I hate you!" ran upstairs, slammed her door shut and wouldn't talk to me.
I ended up buying her another jar of pickles as a peace offering, and my dad went out and got her a new cell phone (insert comment about spoiled youngest children here). And that is the argument we still talk about today.
At the moment my garden is a hot freaking mess. There are uncontrollable weeds hiding behind a wall of thorns from a rose bush gone wild. The tomato plants are falling over on top of themselves and each other and everything (including that hideous gargoyle). The cucumber plant has grown into places I can't even reach and there is fruit hidden under practically every leaf. This week will be an exercise in the creative use of the cuke. One harvesting of cucumbers produced 10 pints of beautiful vinegary, dilly, salty pickles.
These pickles are actually supposed to brine for six weeks, but after a mixup with the proportions of vinegar and water and salt, I went ahead a sampled the pickles just to make sure. Once I sampled, oh, I just couldn't stop. There's an audible crunch when biting into the chips; they just reak of freshness. And I just love the pucker of the vinegar. My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it.
Pickles: recipe thanks to my friend Caitlin O'Hare
cucumbers (the pickling variety have thinner skin, great for soaking in the brine)
1 scant teaspoon dill weed
1 garlic clove, peeled
3/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fine kosher salt (or pickling salt)
1/8 teaspoon alum
Arrange half the cucumbers in the quart jars. Add the dill and garlic clove (I chopped them into a couple smaller pieces). Fill the jar the rest of the way with cukes. Pour in the vinegar, salt and alum, which serves to keep the cukes crispy. Fill the jar the rest of the way with cold water. Put the lid on and shake it up, making sure the salt dissolves. Brine in the fridge for six weeks (or you know, a week--I chopped mine so I figured the flavoring didn't have to go through the skin before soaking the cucumber with goodness). These pickles need to stay in the fridge because they are sealed or properly sterilized for that sort of thing.