I know that I am more than late for our usual Thursday chat, but please forgive my tardiness. Due to an oversight on my part, our guest of honour was not ready for their debut. But finally, the wait is over.
The pickles have arrived. And what pickles they are. But before I tell you about their end, let me tell you of how they came to be.
At the market last weekend, I overheard a farmer describing the progress of his crop. Speaking in glowing tones that were more than tinged with pride, he detailed the specific traits of each of his vegetables; how they grew, their likes and dislikes, their particular qualities. He had a quiet intensity about the way he spoke, an enthusiasm that shone through his words. It was evident that the subject matter was of the utmost importance - more than a livelihood, but a passion as well.
There's just one of the many reasons why he's our Regular Vegetable Man.
On that same weekend his summer squash was especially fine, slender and small, with delicate, taut skin that was perfectly blemish-free. I do not know what it was that sparked my idea of pickling these little darlings, but a pickle was my particular plan. It was a surprising choice, as my usual tendency is to grill, griddle, or roast. But a pickle seemed the order of the day, the promise of crisp, cold slices of squash, puckery and astringent had me salivating. As a good pickle should.
Five days after salting, boiling and sealing the jars tight, I opened the fridge with fork in hand and anticipation in my heart.
That's the thing about pickles, they require faith. Commitment. They take their own sweet time. You do what you can to set things in motion, but that is where your influence ends.
What you put in the jar is as acrid and overblown, eye-twitchingly sour. But wait, just you wait, this is only the beginning. From there, the pickle really takes care of itself. The wait is transformative, and what happens inside that glass coccoon is entirely out of your hands. But your patience will be duly rewarded.
And rewarded I was. After those days, the vinegars had mellowed and muted, now balanced with a sweetness that is first to the tongue. The heat follows, with the indisputable zing of acid to finish.
I wonder if our Vegetable Man might like a jar.
Bread and Butter Pickled Summer Squash
Inspired by a recipe from Simply Recipes. As these are meant as a refrigerator (chilled) pickle, they are not processed after being canned. Please see the link above for valuable tips on sterilizing and, if you so choose, how to process pickles so that they are shelf-stable.
2 pounds mixed summer squash, cut into 1/8-inch slices (I used yellow summer squash and zucchini)
1 medium white onion (about 8 ounces), halved and thinly sliced
2 heaping tablespoons kosher or pickling salt
2 cups ice cubes
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup white vinegar
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon or a good pinch of ground cloves
Toss squash and onion with salt in a large colander set over a bowl. Add ice, toss again. Refrigerate, tossing occasionally for 3 hours. This process will increase the crunch of the pickles by drawing out excess water. Once the 3 hours have passed, drain the squash, picking out any ice cubes that might remain. Rinse well and drain again.
Bring vinegars, sugar, mustard and celery seeds, peppercorns, turmeric, red pepper flakes and ground clove to a boil in a saucepan. Add the drained squash and onion. Ladle into 4 hot sterilized pint jars, leaving about 1/2 inch below each jar's neck. Carefully wipe rims of jars with a clean, damp cloth. Cover tightly with new, sterilized lids and screw tops. Cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge for 3-5 days before opening.
Makes 4 1-pint jars, to be eaten within weeks of making.