If I learned anything last year, it’s that people LOVE to ask pregnant women what they’re craving.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t give the people what they wanted for I wasn’t really craving anything at all. It was actually the opposite: I’d suddenly developed a severe aversion to all vegetables.
“That’s such a strange coincidence,” my cousin JJ quipped when I told him. “I’ve had that same symptom for the last 30 years!”
But really, all the things pregnant women are supposed to want just didn’t do it for me. Ice cream? Hurt my sensitive teeth. Chocolate? Gave me heartburn. Sushi? I’d just order a cooked eel cucumber roll and scratch that itch. Pickles?
Oh well, duh, of course I craved pickles. But that didn’t have a darn thing to do with being pregnant. I would have been driving down Route 9 with an open jumbo jar of dills between my knees whether or not I was carrying a small human inside of me. Pickles are just a way of life for me.
Truly, I’ve loved pickles for as long as I can remember. From fighting over who got to drink the leftover pickle juice as a kid (as my father bellowed “it will put hair on your chest!”) to ordering entire cured cucumbers on a stick at state fairs to walking into my friend Meredith’s house and going straight for the condiment shelf, I’ve never been able to resist a good veggie in brine.
And what’s not to love? They’re sour and crunchy and salty and tart, and they can transform a flabby hamburger or soggy grilled cheese into a textured masterpiece. Through various diets, I loved pickles for their low calorie count, and through my late 20s, I loved pickles for their post-whiskey-shot relief. But today, I love pickles for a whole new reason: they’re a fantastic way to preserve food during this strange period in world history, thereby limiting waste and curbing trips to the store.
If you’ve never tried making your own pickles, might I suggest you use this extra time on your hands (don’t lie to me, I know you’re sitting at home) to give it a go? It’s easy and fast, and the results are delicious. It’s a great way to use up fresh vegetables when you’ve bought too many, and even though pickles can be a salt/sugar bomb, making them yourself helps you control just how much sodium you’re putting in.
I prefer to make refrigerator pickles, which don’t require a pressure canner and can hang out in the fridge for a few weeks (if they last that long before making it into your mouth). I’ve tried a few recipes, and this one from Cookie + Kate is my favorite to use as a template and adapt. It’s good with radishes, but I’ve tried with red peppers and carrots and garlic and even leftover kale stems (now THAT’s ingenuity) to roaring success.
Here’s what you need:
- 1 bunch thinly sliced vegetables (use a mandolin if you can, or just cut them thin and uniform)
- ¾ cup vinegar (to maintain color, use a clear one like white vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, etc.)
- ¾ cup water
- 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (I’ve also used white sugar)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Optional add-ins: red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, garlic cloves, peppercorns, fennel seeds, etc. I never have things like this at my upstate home, so I’ve tried sprinkling in Harissa or whatever else I have on hand. These pickles are good even without a spice element.
- Slice the veggies uniformly and thinly and pack into a glass jar – I use an old mason jar or an empty salsa jar or whatever else is clean and in the recycling.
- In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, honey/maple syrup and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the salt dissolves. Then pour the mixture over the jar of vegetable slices. Totally cover them in liquid.
- Let it cool to room temperature, then leave in the fridge overnight. Consume.
Give it a try and report back. Lucille and I will be waiting to hear the results!