Cool as a Cucumber (or Zucchini, Turnip or Cherry!)

What I learned at Slow Food Pittsburgh's Pickling Class.

Not sure if you realized, but it’s summer time, and here’s a shocker — it’s unbearably humid in Pittsburgh. Who in their right mind wants to stand over a cauldron of steaming hot water? Not me. Let’s make something cool and refreshing instead, yes?

Let’s get out of this pickle. With pickles!

I LOVE pickles and I love them in their "purest" form — that is, pickles that have not gone through high-heat pasteurization that kills the good bacteria that the natural fermentation process worked hard to produce. Most grocery store pickles are pasteurized, unless they are labeled "raw." Most home-made pickles and krauts are not.

Why is this important? Aside from elevating pickles from being simply a sublime side to any meal, naturally fermented products give us naturally occurring probiotics. Yes, you've heard about this. Yogurts have it. Miso has it (which is why it is better not to put miso in direct heat and instead add it to broth right before serving). Probiotics contribute to healthy intestinal flora, supporting digestion. I'm sure you've heard that 80 percent (or so) of our immune system is in our gut. It’s true.

It is no coincidence that pickles and krauts accompany meals in many cultures.

This point in the season, the harvest offers a bounty of vegetables and sometimes we’re fortunate to have access to more than we can consume. It’s the perfect time for preservation. My default method is to blanch and freeze, or cut and freeze, or just plain freeze. You get the idea. Lowest effort and no heat generation. Some of my friends are more industrious and artful — they actually CAN their leftovers. Jams, jellies, relishes, salsas. You name it.

I'm not quite as crafty. I've only gone as far as simple homemade sauerkraut with some cabbage chiffonade, water and salt (which produces one of the best krauts I've ever had). My CSA whetted my pickle appetite even more by including a teaser jar with my first share. But alas, the recipe is a family secret. So when Slow Food Pittsburgh offered a "Summer Pickles" class, I couldn’t miss it.

As with any Slow Food Pittsburgh class, it was as informative as it was delicious. Miriam Rubin taught us how to make Grandma Rubin's Dill Pickles — a classic! And we got to make our own! Betsy Holloweck showed us how to make Pickled Turnips with some turmeric — only one of my favorite spices ever! Alyce Spencer showed us Zucchini Pickles and served it on a divine radicchio salad with some Castelvetrano olives. And Nancy Hanst taught us how to make Pickled Cherries that tasted so wonderful I'm a little annoyed they take six weeks to cure.

All the pickle recipes were effortless. Note the magic word. After you mix, you just do what they say … leave 'em and love 'em, right?


I was never so inspired to buy a case of mason jars. So I offer you the recipes plus a bonus Japanese quick pickle (with cucumbers and wakame seaweed!) that is an instant go-to (no need to cure) whenever you're strapped for time.

Grandma Rubin's Kosher Dill Pickles

Presented by Miriam Rubin
Yield: Makes 4 or 5 pints.
Note: If there's no dill in your garden, substitute a tablespoon of dill seed. Do not use dill fronds.

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds small pickling cucumbers, well scrubbed
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar (lately, I've been adding a few tablespoons more)
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons pickling spice (Grandma always removed the excess allspice and cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled, brown ends trimmed
  • 2 small fresh or dried chiles, more for jars
  • 6 to 8 heads dill

1. Place cucumbers in large bowl. Cover with ice water and refrigerate 1 hour until icy-cold and crisp. Drain.

2. In a 2-quart measuring cup, measure water. Add vinegar, salt, pickling spice and peppercorns. Stir to dissolve salt.

3. Put cucumbers in pickling crock or deep glass or ceramic bowl. Add garlic and 2 chiles. Pour in brine and stir to mix. Place dill on top, pressing into brine.

4. Place a clean, unchipped small plate on top. Press down gently to submerge cucumbers. Cover with a clean towel. Let stand at cool room temperature 2 days for barely pickled cucumbers, 3 to 4 days for more
pickled ones.

5. Pack pickles into 4 or 5 clean pint jars. Add a garlic clove from brine and a chile to each. Ladle brine into jars, covering pickles. Discard dill and remaining brine. Cover jars and refrigerate. Pickles are ready now but will keep 2 to 3 months. Brine may become cloudy; that's OK .

Nancy Hanst's Sweet and Sour Cherries

  • 3/4 pound firm Bing or Lambert or...other sweet cherries
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • Mace blades

1. Wash and prick each cherry once or twice with a sterilized needle.

2. Trim stems, leaving about one inch attached. Heat vinegar in enameled or stainless steel pan, add sugar and cook, stirring over low heat, until sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and boil for 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Pack cherries into sterilized jars. Place one large or two small mace blades in each jar and fill with slightly cooled vinegar. Clean jar rims and seal closely. Wait at least 6 weeks before serving.

Recipe from "Pleasure of Cooking," issue No. 12, a magazine no longer in existence.

Radicchio Salad with Zucchini Pickles

Recipe adapted from Jason Neroni, Osteria la Buca, Los Angeles
Yield: 8 servings
Cook Time: 20 minutes hands on time plus overnight and 1 hour soak

  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/16-inch slices
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered
  • 4 heads radicchio, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 15 Castelvetrano olives, pitted

1. Place the zucchini in a heat-proof, lidded container. In a medium saucepan, combine the white wine vinegar, sugar, ¼ cup salt, turmeric and mustard seeds and bring to a boil. Pour the hot mixture over the zucchini slices. Cover the container and refrigerate the pickles overnight.

2. In a separate container, combine the red wine vinegar, garlic, rosemary and red onion; cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. To assemble the salad, soak the radicchio in a large bowl of ice water for 1 hour. Drain, pat dry and reserve. Strain the red wine vinegar marinade through a fine-mesh strainer and set aside.

4. Gently toss the radicchio with the mint, parsley, ¼ cup bread and butter pickles, ½ cup of the red wine vinegar marinade and the olive oil, Parmesan and olives. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Turnip Pickles

From the book A Platter of Figs by David Tanis
Yield: 1 qt

  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • ½ tsp. dried Greek oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. small turnips, scrubbed but not peeled, in small wedges

1. Combine the garlic, herbs and spices, salt, water, vinegar, and olive oil in a bowl. Stir to dissolve salt.

2. Pack the turnip wedges into a clean quart jar and pour in the brine mixture. Screw on the lid. Put the jar on a shelf in the kitchen and turn it over every day for a week.

3. After a week, refrigerate the pickles. Use within a month.

4. (In a hurry) Quick Pickled Turnips: For a faster pickle, simmer the turnips in the brine for about 8 minutes, or until cooked but still firm. Cool the pickles in the brine, then refrigerate overnight before serving.

Bonus: Quick Cucumber Pickles with Wakame Seaweed

From Everyday Harumi

Be adventurous! Add something you've never had before in a pickle....seaweed! Wakame gives it a different "salty" taste that is extremely refreshing. My kids love this pickle.

Click here to go to The Brazen Kitchen for the recipe, and for more tips on easy pickling!
 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Brazen Kitchen:

Quick and Rustic Peach Tart

Quick and Rustic Peach Tart

Brazen Kitchen shows you how to highlight this season’s Pennsylvania peaches (better than Georgia's!)
The Perfect Homemade Gift: Drunken Pirouettes

The Perfect Homemade Gift: Drunken Pirouettes

Julia Erickson, co-founder of Barre, shares the recipe for a homemade energy snack, fueled with a touch of Wigle’s organic rye whiskey.
Grilled Flatbread That'll Blow Your Mind

Grilled Flatbread That'll Blow Your Mind

During the long weekend, prepare this summer-inspired pizza, which features spelt dough, a colorful array of tomatoes and other CSA treats.
Arepas Arrive in the ‘Burgh

Arepas Arrive in the ‘Burgh

Brazen Kitchen: Along with City Dining Cards! (Read on to get them FREE!)
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

Sharing the DNA of the father of children’s television, the Fred Rogers Company reinvigorates a beloved legacy while creating new hit characters and content that help children to grow, giggle and learn.
Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Jamie and Ali McMutrie were PM's 2010 Pittsburghers of the Year after airlifting 54 youngsters to safety. Now, they have forged a relationship with a major global player to continue their work to prevent struggling Haitian families from surrendering children to orphanages.
PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

Four ways to make the city even better in 2015.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
#Oops — Or, About that Headline . . .

#Oops — Or, About that Headline . . .

Once in a while, no good deed goes unpunished.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
The World-Famous Yinzer Gift Guide: 2014

The World-Famous Yinzer Gift Guide: 2014

You can't miss with a gift from PittGirl’s list of 13 'Burgh-related must-haves.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Broadening Pittsburgh's Meat Horizons

Broadening Pittsburgh's Meat Horizons

A partnership between a local couple and a local farmer has resulted in more pasture-raised lamb and pork being sold at the market.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
10 Best Lunch Spots That Won’t Bust Your Budget

10 Best Lunch Spots That Won’t Bust Your Budget

Come lunchtime, these Pittsburgh eateries serve food that's big on flavor and low on cost.

Comments


Bar Exam: OTB Bicycle Cafe North Park

Bar Exam: OTB Bicycle Cafe North Park

The northern outpost of the "bikes, burgers, beers" bar takes the Bar Exam.

Comments


The Perfect Homemade Gift: Drunken Pirouettes

The Perfect Homemade Gift: Drunken Pirouettes

Julia Erickson, co-founder of Barre, shares the recipe for a homemade energy snack, fueled with a touch of Wigle’s organic rye whiskey.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Elf for Your Shelf

Elf for Your Shelf

Artist Ken Wagle draws on his Pennsylvania Dutch heritage to create unique carvings of the North Pole’s biggest elf — Santa.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
See a Traditional Holiday Show This Weekend

See a Traditional Holiday Show This Weekend

"A Musical Christmas Carol," "The Nutcracker" and "Highmark Holiday Pops" all perform in the Cultural District.

Comments


Award-winning sports commentary by Sean Conboy
R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

Fire Bylsma? Fire Shero? The Penguins' problems run deeper.

Comments

Edit Module