Making pickles now belongs to that class of human activity that has lost its original raison d'etre and exist now chiefly (or is that chefly?) as an art form, done for its own sake. Pickling has become for cook or gardner what a manual transmission is to the driving enthusiast, or, more retro, horses. Or what calligraphy is to a letter writer in the age of email and texting. You do it not for the easy and unthinking way of coasting through your days.
We had to pickle in the days before refrigeration. Now it is done for the sake of special flavors that can be had with salt and vinegar over time. There are not many real books on the subject. You see far more on canning and preserves. The Joy of Pickling is a slightly tongue in cheek title on the best book I haver ever seen on the subject. It helps to have a faintly daft teacher such as Ms. Ziedrich in these briny arts. She is a monomaniac with a mission, sustained now well over a decade. As with Madame Curie, her calling was not a result of selfish pursuits. She never even cared much for pickled vegetables (cucumbers are only the beginning) herself, but ushered in by the cares of close ones that has taken over her life.
For us novitiates, Ms. Ziedrich begins with basics -- helpful discussions of vinegar, salt, spices, tools and equipment. She understands the chemistry of pickling, therefore presenting things as simple proportions. Then off we go into Part 2: Fermentation, covering twenty-five applications after a few more basics. You can pickle from just a pint at a time, for those of you daunted by visions of vats, barrels and $400 crocks (I kid you not). This second edition updated a sturdy working original of ten years past. The addition of the venerable Lower East Side "Full Sour" dill is reason enough, but she has added many relishes and other fine points. She also took considerable pains to clarify the recipes and the discussions of mechanics. We are ever more assured of success across a broad array of tasty bits.
Part 3 is devoted to Fresh Pickles, meaning, not fermented. For those of you who must minimize salt use, this is the domain of vinegar.
Part 4 conquers cabbages. I still remember the dressing down when my father discovered I poured out the sauerkraut juice. Now I know why.
Part 5 takes us from Kimchi into the deep waters of Asian Pickling
Part 6 is Sweet Pickles. If you guess nothing is here for you, 2/3 of this section is for fruit.
Part 7 is Quick pickles of all sorts in two or fewer days. Do some of these while waiting for fermentation to kick-in on day three.
Part 8 is completely new to me: Freezer Pickles. Just six sweet recipes for a year's storage, even if only in freezer bags.
Part 9 is her beefed-up relish section. I am an old-fashioned relisher of these. They were popular so long for reasons only recently undone by tired and gooked-up store bought stuff. Time to revive:
- Corn relishes
- Mango chutney
- Walnut ketchup
- Chili Sauce
- Prepared Horseradish (hi-test)
All tried and true powerhouses to amplify or accent your food.
Finally, Part 10 leaves off the leaves and goes for meat, fish and eggs.
To the tune of Catch a Falling Star:
"Catch a Pickled Herring
Put in in a Barrel
Save it for a Rainy Day
Never let it Rot Away..."
Ms. Ziedrich will encourage the timid and satisfy the accomplished. Corned Beef is your PhD dissertation. You want souce? You have a delightful, achievable one here. Once you get going, you can push the barrel. Recommended ages 13 to 93.