I hate pickles.
I am that fussy girl who will order her double-quarter pounder with cheese, wait for the new batch of fries so she can get them with no salt, and then before digging in, peel back the paper wrapper, rummage around in her burger for the three pickles lodged off-center in the processed cheese slice, remove and tuck them in a fold of paper — not actually touching the burger, mind you — before slapping the layers back together and digging in. Meanwhile everyone else balls up their wrappers and napkins, drains the last of their drinks and gets up to take their trays to the garbage. What? You guys are done already? But I just… oh. I’ll just eat mine in the car, then. Yeah, that’s me.
I can’t handle the vinegar-iness. I tried to like Deb’s pickled snap peas to no avail. I can’t stand the fast food burger pickles, I habitually shun the long, quartered offering served up next to Montreal smoked meat sandwiches. Even the pink pickled ginger in sushi restaurants — and we’re talking ginger here, the knobbly root about which I am besotted — is something I’ll eat only if under extreme duress. Vinegar and I just… aren’t really friends. You know? We’re cold-shouldered acquaintances at best.
And yet, as The Boy bemusedly points out, I persist in making foods I don’t like.
Last week, it was bread and butter pickles, using those teensy cucumbers our CSA bestowed on us in Week 9. I was feeling a little blue since I’d been caught all week with a cold or flu or somesuch, so I decided that some slicing, stirring and jarring was in order. I used Elise’s recipe, but after reading about her experience pickling jalapenos, I decided to jazz up the brine with a couple of those as well. (In the proportions she uses, I would have added 5 peppers, sliced up and thrown in with the cukes and onions. I was also a little more generous with the chili flakes.) The results are fantastic: crispy and sweet, tart and spicy. I don’t even regret sending The Boy’s parents off with a pint since it just means that I’ll get through the (quickly-diminishing) pint that I have faster, and I’ll be able to whip up a larger batch to actually can for the winter. (I’m a little worried the water bath will make them mushy, since I raw-packed the fridge-bound jars; guess we’ll see!)
I can’t convince The Boy to try these pickles, but this time I am totally fine with that because I’ve become one of those people I used to read about who stand at the counter in their kitchen fishing pickle slices out of the jar with a fork, while staring into space with a crazed look in their eyes. (I was actually feeling kind of trashy about that until The Boy commented that for many folks eating pickles as a snack out of the fridge was normal and would I stop being such a snob? Well then.)
So there you have it: I don’t hate pickles. I just hate pickles that aren’t these pickles.
While we’re on the non-hating front, I’m happy to announce that I’ve finally gotten off my behind and done something I’ve been meaning to try forever: candy my own ginger. I’d found that recipe ages ago, but had held off, frightened off from the project by David’s admonitions to try to find young ginger. I don’t know what time of year I should be trawling the Asian markets, but I have yet to find any. Still, necessity demanded crystal ginger this weekend, so I grabbed the least knobbly lobe I had, set to peeling and slicing and wound up with gorgeous, shaved gold.
This ginger is much, much thinner than the candied ginger I tend to buy at the bulk store (how is it that I didn’t have any lying around?!) and the flavour is simultaneously sharper and sweeter, probably because they’re still wet with syrup. I imagine that if I let the slices dry out a bit on a rack, they’d acquire that chewiness the store stuff has too. But why would I wait that long to eat them?! The syrup too is fantastic; sharper and gingerier than this one that I’d made for a lark earlier in the month. I’m looking forward to pouring club soda into it for the best “ginger ale” ever, when I’m done with the slices.
What did I need candied ginger for in such a hurry? Another food I don’t like of course: blueberry ginger jam. Those who know me will know of my long-standing dread of the blueberry. It might be a similar sort of snobbery to the folks who despise all tomatoes that aren’t in-season farmstand tomatoes: to me, those rubbery, bloated blue marbles of mush at the store really are the zombies of the berry world. I love the tiny wild blueberries (bonus if they’ve been chocolate-coated by monks!) and don’t particularly mind the flavour in a sauce but those supermarket berries? Yuck.
Having said that, though, even I couldn’t resist buying a big plastic box of them — a little over a quart and a half! — for $1.29 while doing my groceries on the weekend. $1.29! For over 6 cups of berries!! Clearly I had to buy them and make jam. And what better way of ensuring that I’ll actually like the jam than to pair these most-likely zombie berries with my much-loved standby, ginger? That Marissa is a genius.
I mashed up my berries, threw in the sugar and sliced ginger to macerate, before rummaging through my cupboards to realize that… I was out of the candied stuff. Me, the ginger queen. Apparently my snacking was more prolific than suspected. Too lazy to venture out again to buy some more, I decided to make my own, which proved to be a wise decision indeed! In the end, everything worked out: although I wasn’t a huge fan of the taste while it was bubbling away on the stove, once I stirred in the candied ginger and ladled everything merrily away into jars, the ginger had had a chance to shine though and people? It is delicious. I was actually disappointed when the quarter pint jar that I was so sure hadn’t sealed properly turned out to be perfectly sealed after all: now what was I going to pour lavishly over my morning yoghourt? Well, I still have a goodly selection of other jams in the fridge, so I guess I’ll set to clearing those away…