It is finally starting to cool down, at night at least. I have placed a couple of cheerful pumpkins on the front porch and have replanted the window boxes with chrysanthemums and some pansies. My neighbor keeps rearranging her seasonal troupe of plastic skeletons and ghosts. It is beginning to look a lot like the seasons are going to change. Finally.
Living in the slower-paced smaller COVID world we can spend a day learning how to ferment pickle the slow, traditional way. Or we can quick pickle and get ready to binge Borgen on Netflix. Pickles might be the new COVID sour dough DIY project. Quick pickles can give us a little sunshine on the dinner table when fall’s cooler temperatures and darker nights make us long for summer’s warm sunshine.
My mother favored a tiny one-man butcher shop just around the corner from our house. It was the kind of place that stocked bread and Saltines and penny candy, as well as the hanging slabs of meat kept cold in an old-fashioned wooden refrigerator at the back of the store. While we waited for our pound of cubed steak or a half pound of sliced American cheese, we were sometimes allowed to choose a pickle out of the large barrel located near the front door. They were huge, manatee-sized pickles, which we ate sitting on the step of the shop, with juice running down our arms and onto the sidewalk. (In retrospect I wonder how my mother decided they would be a treat for us, because she didn’t like pickles. Every Thanksgiving she would put out a tiny WASPy bowl of sweet gherkins for a relish dish , but I never saw her eat any.)
I enjoy a cool cucumber salad, with slices of sweet Vidalia onion, and a scattering of Maldon salt is the perfect summer meal. Quick pickles are almost as good as an Indian Summer salad, or sitting on Benny’s Butcher Shop front step, chowing down on a big, honking pickle, watching the neighborhood parade by.
Cheater’s Pickles – From the New York Times
2 English cucumbers
2 tablespoons sugar
Handful of ice cubes
¼ cup rice vinegar, Champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
Several pinches of flaky salt, such as Maldon
Several grinds of black pepper, optional
2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill, mint or chives, or a mixture, optional
½ Vidalia onion, sliced into thin half-moons, optional
1.Cut off the ends of the cucumbers and use the tines of a fork to draw long stripes down their lengths. Slice the cucumbers like bread-and-butter pickles, about 1/8-inch thick, and pile them into a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the cucumbers and stir in well. Scatter the ice cubes over the slices and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Chill in the freezer for 1/2 hour.
2.Drain the cucumbers in a colander and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Put the cucumbers back in the bowl, sprinkle the vinegar over them evenly, and stir well. Add the salt and pepper, if using, and stir well to combine. Toss in the herbs and the onions, if using. Refrigerate until ready to serve. They will still be good the next day, though not quite as crisp.
Vivian Howard knows busy. Here is her recipe for quick pickles from PBS’s A Chef’s Life:
Of course, our friends at Food52 have the answer for quick pickles, too: https://food52.com/recipes/18162-spicy-dill-quick-pickles
And here is a super quick recipe from Alice Waters for a medley of cucumbers, radishes and watermelon meant to be consumed immediately. Hurry up! Get cracking! We haven’t got anywhere to go!
“Each day the sun shone, the birds lingered, though the trees were turning, purely out of habit, and their rose and yellow and rust looked strange and beautiful above the brilliant green grass.”
― Elizabeth Enright