For reasons I cannot perfectly articulate, I love canning and preserving. In particular, I like making jam, but I have nothing against pickles or preserved fruit. There’s something about the process that I enjoy, from the cutting up and the balance of ingredients to the sterilizing of jars and tops. Some of my canning experiences have been less than ideal. A few have been triumphs.
There’s one rub to my preserving activities: no one in my family particularly likes pickles or preserves, and I cannot consume the jars of marmalade or jam or peaches-in-ginger or pickles that I can make. Nor do I want to terrify my friends and co-workers when they see me coming with yet another jar of something.
Still, I keep canning. Like tonight: I made pickles. I have always been a dill- or half-sour sort of girl, but these are bread-and-butter pickles, and they may be the cause of my defection from the Church of the Sour Pickle. A friend to whom I gave a jar a few months ago said “I’ll never eat all these.” Two days later I got an email from her: “Must have MORE PICKLES.” So I guess they work. I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, a cooking blog of which I am very fond (Deb Perelman’s recipe for strawberry-cream biscuits more or less brought my family to their knees). Even the photos on the blog make me want to eat. And cook.
Pickles are on the savory side of the “perfect summer food” continuum: crunchy, cool, vibrant, a little burst of startlement on your tongue. They’re a counterpoint to the juiciness of a hamburger or the smooth blandness of a tuna sandwich. Pickles make me think of cook-outs and picnics, and of cooks who go the extra mile, providing that little garnish that snaps the whole meal into focus.
These pickles are a snap to make. Really. Cut up some cukes and onions; put ‘em in a bowl with Kosher salt, let ‘em sit under ice for a couple of hours. Mix up sugar and vinegar and some spices. Mix it all up. The link will give you the particulars (plus the gorgeous photographs–who knew cucumbers could be so ready for their close-up?)
Summer is a wonderful time for preserving–all those tower of peaches and plums and nectarines; the strawberries and blueberries yearning to be made into jars of jam in jewel-like colors. And cucumbers. Don’t forget the cucumbers!