Choose Your Own Adventure Pickles

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From: Daniel Larkin
To: Jamey Bennett

Are you doing a garden in Florida? I hope so, because you’ve got the weather for it. Fall is right around the corner in Tennessee, and this is the first year I’ve actively tried to harvest as much as I could from my garden before the cold sets in and it all just withers and rots on the vine. (Pesto email coming soon)

The biggest producer we had this year was our lone banana pepper plant, which I’m sure is trying its hardest to keep growing in the chill night air as I type this. Yesterday I collected everything could from the plant, and added it to a bag of peppers I had collected about two weeks ago. The bounty was too much to waste, so I decided to pickle them with the last of my cucumbers and all the dill that hadn’t gone to flower. I also ran to the store and bought some jalapeños and garlic for good measure.

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If you haven’t made pickles before, shame on you. Pickles are one of those wonderful items that are not only cheaper to make on your own, but are way better tasting than store-bought. And the effort is nearly nil. I don’t own a canner, a pressure cooker, or any other fancy equipment. In fact, the only “canning equipment” I use are Ball jars and a jar grabber.

The caveat here, though, is that I make small batches that I know won’t last longer than a month or two. Canning can get sketchy as a long-term investment, so what I’m suggesting here is a small batch arrangement for short term use.

With any canning, cleanliness is key, so sterilize your jars and lids by boiling them in a large stock pot filled with enough water to cover the jars halfway. Fill the jars, cover with a lid, and boil for 10 minutes. Then set the aside on a towel to cool.

(Good practice here dictates that I say that most people recommend putting your filled jars back pot of into the pot and boiling the contents for another 10 minutes. I don’t do that, but again, I eat my pickles pretty fresh, I’m not squirreling them away for Armageddon. Plus, not boiling the filled jars also keeps the pickles crisp!)

So that’s the cleanliness aspect, but what about the ingredients?  The first question people ask when talking about pickles isn’t, “What vegetables do you pickle?”  It’s, “What do you soak them in?” Now what I’m about to unload on you isn’t a recipe, but an easy to remember formula. Making pickles is like making beer, just learn the formula, and then go balls deep into the great unknown. The only ingredients you need to know are these:

  • 1-cup water to 1-cup white vinegar, add one tablespoon of pickling salt. (Just remember one-to-one-to-one) Mix as much of this solution as you need, and bring it to a boil.

That’s it. The veggies and spices are all yours to mix. Take your cooled, sanitized jars, stuff them to the gills with whatever veggies (or fruits) and herbs you want, and top it off with the boiling water/vinegar mix. Seal the jars, set them in the fridge for two weeks, and you’re done. It takes me less than an hour, start to finish, to make a half dozen jars, but I sometimes like to make them one or two jars at a time, just to have around.  It’s that easy.

There is no limit to what awesome pickles you can make. Spicy pickles with squash and jalapeño, curry pickles with carrots, lemon and rosemary pickles (I learned the hard way to go easy on the rosemary). You can seriously get Bubba Gump Shrimp about it. I personally like the spicy pickles with a loaf of homemade sourdough baguette and a slice of Camembert cheese. Great goofily moogily.

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Fried Foods! Yay!

Daniel Larkin to jamey
10:57 AM 

So I sent you pictures of our Bar Food Friday last weekend, but I wanted to share the goods.  The chicken nachos were decent; we made them using my veggie taco recipe with real chicken.  We started drinking before cooking, so we were a little rosy by the time we got to the cheese, and it ended up more like a Mexican mozzarella than queso fresco. But I’m not really writing you about the nachos.  You know how to do nachos.  What I’m talking about are the fried pickles.

October is over, so I’m assuming you can splurge on some good old fashion horrible-for-you food.  I use this batter for just about everything fried – chicken, onions, pickles, etc. – and it’s never let me down.  I actually learned the recipe from a popular bar I worked at in Charlotte named The Penguin.

The batter is simple, though my recipe may not be 100% accurate, since I’ve never measured my spices.  Ever.  I actually taste as I go, mostly checking salt and heat levels.  (I know some people have an aversion to tasting raw flour, but it’s the only way I’ve been able to get it spot on every time.)  Consequently, all of my measurements here are guesses, and you can add/subtract to it as you see fit.

  • Two cups of flour
  • 2 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. chili powder – maybe more
  • 1 tbs. red pepper – maybe less
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tbs. cayenne pepper
  • A few grinds of fresh black pepper
  • Enough Lawry’s Seasoning Salt to cast a thin red layer on the top of the mixture.

Mix ingredients, insert a wet fork, and taste.  Again, I taste for salt and heat.  You want to taste the salt, but the heat needs to be background noise.  You don’t want it too spicy.

That’s the best I can describe the recipe.

Frying onions and pickles are essentially the same.  Chicken isn’t even that much different either.  The key to all is small batches.  You don’t want to drop the temperature of the oil too quickly, and you don’t want the items to stick together when they’re in the oil.

For onion straws, slice a sweet onion thin (I use my julienne slicer for thin uniform cuts) and soak it in buttermilk.  When it’s time to fry, just pull a small handful of onions out of the milk, dredge them in the batter, shake off the excess batter, and drop them into a pot of your favorite frying oil.  They’re done when they’re a light golden brown.  These onion straws make any burger 100x better.  Seriously.

For pickles, buy a jar of dill pickle chips and pour out the juice and replace it with buttermilk.  (I know this sounds gross, but it’s fine.  Buttermilk is curdled to begin with.)  When it’s time to fry, pull out a small handful of chips and shake off some, but not all, of the extra milk.  Toss the pickles in the batter mix to fully coat them.  Next, pull the chips out of the batter and shake them around in a sifter over the remaining batter.  This breaks up any globs of flour, and prevents the chips from sticking to each other in the oil.  Toss them in the oil, and they’re done when they float to the top with a golden brown color.  Serve in a bowl lined with paper towels, and have some Ranch dressing on hand to dip them in.  Oh, and prepare to be in heaven.

For chicken, I cut my breast meat into thin slices and soak them in a mix of buttermilk, one egg, and a few splashes of Texas Pete hot sauce.  Aside from the extra wet ingredients, the only thing I do differently with chicken is to double batter it.  Soak, toss, soak, toss, fry.  It gives it that supreme crunch that chicken tenders need.

I hope this all makes sense.  It’s an easy recipe, and it kills me how good it is every time I try it.  The pickles are especially gratifying, since no one outside of The Penguin can seem to make a decent fried pickle.

Pickled Eggs with Eggs and Pickle Juice. Easy.

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey
show details 9:53 AM (4 hours ago)

I don’t even think this qualifies for Two-Dudes material since the recipe calls only for eating pickles and boiling eggs – and the boiling part is optional now that Eggland’s Best sells pre-boiled eggs.  Are you ready for the easiest and simultaneously the greatest snack ever?

Step 1) Buy Kalusen’s Dill Pickles.
Step 2) Eat the shit out of the pickles because they’re awesome!
Step 3) Boil and peel some eggs, or buy the lazy man’s 1/2 dozen bag at the grocery store.
Step 4) Put the eggs in the pickle juice and let them sit for AT LEAST three weeks.
Step 5) Freak out about how good the eggs taste now!

I’ve been buying quail eggs at the farmer’s market and using them recently.  They are 1/3 of the size of chicken eggs, so they’re the perfect pop-able snack.  The size makes them a real bitch to peel without breaking, but they only take one week to become stupid awesome.

from Jamey Bennett
to me
show details 11:15 AM (2 hours ago)

No, that is two dudes material because it’s hilarious!