For the past twelve months or so the world, or maybe its just the United States, has been obsessed with pickles. I mean, legit obsessed with everything from carnival favorite deep fried pickles to weird cheese fill dill pickles and even dill pickle-tinis. Yeah, they even tried to ruin my favorite cocktail with my favorite condiment?
What really upsets me about this craze is that when old school pickle lovers like myself turn my nose up at all these new creations, I’m a food snob. I mean sometimes I can be a food snob but pickles are so good on their own. Without cheese or vermouth or bacon. Sometimes I make sandwiches for the sole purpose of adding two pickles to each plate.
But, I digress.
So I really love pickles and for the past five years my poor husband has had to listen to me lament about the terrible state of the pickle selection in Germany because, well it was terrible. Their ‘spicy’ pickles were sweet; their sweet pickles were somehow sweeter and the sour pickles were too damn soft to be considered pickles. The only bright spot in my pickle love was when the in-laws would visit or send care packages with other visitors was…my mother in law’s pickles. She’s a pickle sorceress, I swear she is. Her pickles are always crunchy, perfectly salty with just enough spice that the hubs and I could both eat them. And because she is the absolute best, she always sends an extra spicy batch just for me.
And it turns out we arrived in Romania just in time for…pickling!
Our apartment is in walking distance of a very large Farmer’s Market, which I’ll be sharing with you next week, and several different farmers had giant mounds of cucumbers just waiting to become pickles.
But it wasn’t just cucumbers attending this part.
Having been on the receiving end of big jars of pickled items I wasn’t too surprised to find tomatoes (red and green) carrots, chili peppers (for spice, of course), bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage (which is my jam!) and onions. What did surprise me was the horseradish and according to the women engaged in this mass pickling afternoon it is what helps keep everything crunchy. That tip was my favorite new thing learned last week because it was the ingredient that made me give up on pickling when we lived in Germany.
My pickles were great on days three and four but after that they turned into a soggy mess that–somehow–seemed to get saltier as the days went by. And now I know why. And so do you if you’re brave enough to admit it.
In addition to a ton of fruits and vegetables, the market had SO MANY fresh herbs, which is a necessary part of pickling if you want them to have layers of flavor. It was fun to go up to each booth and smell the herbs, which brings me to my second favorite thing learned last week: lovage, an herb that’s kind of like parsley but slightly more pungent…only NOT cilantro because this girl is no fan of cilantro.
Bay leaves, whole peppercorns, mustard & cumin seeds all went into the gigantic container in layers between the layers of veg.
Wait at least three days before the first taste and make sure you store them someplace cool and dark.
My favorite way to enjoy pickles is beside a sandwich with salt & vinegar potato chips, but I also find pickled foods with beer and fresh bread equally amazing.
How do you have your pickles?