Jar yourself out of culinary complacency and try pickling
last time I hit up my beloved Second Ave. Deli back home, a corned beef on a club roll cost something like $20.
Granted, it’s bigger than my head and I’d be walking out with leftovers, but even so. Jeez.
Every year I feel more like my mother, who loves to tell me how when she was a kid, she could buy two candy bars and see a movie for a quarter.
“At least the pickles are free,” my daughter said, snatching a half-sour from the bowl on the table.
“Truth,” I said, joining her, and together we snapped into a taste of my childhood.
There are a zillion things that make the traditional Jewish-deli experience amazing, of course, but every single one of them comes after you’ve already eaten a mound of slaw and at least one entire half-sour pickle. My favorite pickle of all.
Trapped mid-transformation, the half-sour pickle is enjoyably imbued with all the delicious, invigorating herbaceousness of its deeper, funkier cousin while retaining its youthful emeraldgreen color and — most importantly, snap.
It’s a cucumber. It’s a pickle.
I love them.
But then, I love all kinds of pickled things: green beans, carThe rots, peppers, beets. I like spicy kimchi and funky sauerkraut and pickled herring and onions in wine sauce (Mixed with sour cream and piled onto a fresh bagel? Heaven!).
Pickling has been around for millennia, so long that a precise date can’t be pinpointed, but historians seem to agree on something like 4,000 years. Cleopatra espoused the benefits of pickles as a beauty supplement. Generals fed them to soldiers for strength. Sailors carried them along on epic journeys. Pickles are exceedingly shelf-stable.
And while the Dutch began growing and pickling cukes in Manhattan in the 1600s, it was the wave of Jewish immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century who brought to America the garlicky “Kosher” dill pickle that’s among the best known and loved in the nation.
“Pickles are something of a catch-all,” says Eliot Hillis, chef/ co-owner of Orlando Meats and founder of the Salt Forge, a local fermentation collective. “They can add acid, salt, tang, funk, sweet. They last forever and they, in turn, can preserve things. And I love them for their ability to throw a dish out of balance for just a second — a micro palatecleanser in the middle of everything else on a plate.”
I don’t much care for the sweet ones, but they have legions of
Labeling not only helps you keep track of dates, it aids your palate’s personal odyssey toward the perfect pickle.