By: J. Marlando
My wife loves to cook but I am a “snacker.” I love bits, pieces and chunks of stuff that I can shove in my mouth, mostly with my fingers, and enjoy without any formality whatsoever. Okay, I admit it I can be a slob every now and then. Well, that is, I don’t eat soup with my fingers nor do I bob for applesauce but giving me a bowl of pickled herring or pigs feet and I’m a happy player.
My wife can’t stand the thought of eating pig’s feet but I’ve been snacking on them since I was a kid—my grandmother cleaned, cooked and pickled them herself. That is when I first heard my Uncle Ray say, “Call me anything, ‘cept late for supper.”
I never learned my grandmother’s recipe, but I’ll give you my secret for great pig’s feet at the end of this article.
The truth is I love all kinds of pickled stuff you can pickle just about anything: greens, carrots, meat, fruit, fish and eggs Pickles, by the way, are the most popular worldwide. Pickles are pickled cucumbers. Devoted pickle fans include Queen Elizabeth, Napoleon and our own George Washington. In fact, Napoleon thought that pickles were so good for a person he wanted them supplied to his troops.
Oh yes, before I forget, in Korea there’s a pickling system for a cabbage dish called kimchee. Kimchi has been made since ancient time and no doubt began as something wonderful resulting from fermentation. I say wonderful because kimchi is one of those foods that I never tire of and always eat too much of. Yes, it’s that good and if you’ve never tried it go to a Korean restaurant and order it before you ever attempt to make your own. Beware however because the best of it is always made with red pepper flakes and other spices. (I say this because I’ve tried American made kimchi a couple of times and it’s simply not as good).
Okay, out of Korea and back to the home front: There is anything…I mean anything that I like to see in our refrigerator more than a big jar of pickled eggs and beets. I love hard boiled eggs and I love beets. Cold pickled eggs and beets (to me) are a royal treat—as you can see I’m a pretty easy-to-please guy.
There are lots of recipes out there but, did I mention that I’m a real klutz in the kitchen! I’ve cooked meals a couple of times when my wife wasn’t feeling well, that our dog wouldn’t eat. And so, I choose the simple and easy: I start out with two cans of whole beets. I mindfully boil my own eggs—ten to twelve of them, toss in about 3/4th cup of sugar, a cup of water and a cup of my favorite vinegar and I’m good to go.
Here’s how it works:
1. Drain the beats except for a cup of the juice from the can
2.Toss the drained beets and eggs into a 2-qt glass jar. (Did I mention to peel the eggs?)
3. Now then pour that beat juice, sugar, cut of water and vinegar into a pan and bring the mix to a boil.
4. Pour the mix into the jar where your beets and eggs are.
5.Let cool and place in your refrigerator for a couple of days.
Comment: Hmmm, boy, are they good but if you’re good in the kitchen, you’ll probably want to cook, peel and pickle your own beats. If you do I’d rather eat at your house!
There’s nothing I like better for Sunday football than some pickled beets and eggs or pig’s feet along with a cold beer. How’s that for being a macho male?
I also mention beer because some people believe that “beer” is precisely how pickling was discovered. That is, people used to preserve their food by placing it in wine and beer. Both have low ph. (Ph in chemistry is how acidic or alkaline a solution is). Anyway, you might also want to know that beer was one of the first inventions of earliest civilization—folks were growing barley for making it some 10,000 years ago! Back more directly to pickling though—the Romans made a pickled fish sauce they called, “garum”. Garum, experts suspect, was an extremely strong fish taste and eaten sparingly. Maybe it went well with a big mug of beer on Christian Day Sundays at the Coliseum?
And speaking of getting pickled, another great snack is Korean style pickled garlic. It’s a really great side dish for Japanese food. You just take:
2 spring garlic heads
½ cup of soy sauce
½ cup of rice vinegar
1 tablespoon of sugar (or to taste)
½ teaspoon pickling salt.
Put the garlic in a small jar or even a bowl. Stir the ingredients and pour them over the garlic. Let it sit in room temperature for three days. (Hey, you have to be patient for this stuff).
Now then: Put the garlic into a 1-cup jar. Pour the liquid into a small nonreactive sauce pan and bring to boil. As soon as the liquid is boiling reduce heat and let simmer…uncovered! When there’s only around half the liquid left—let it cool.
Pour the cooled liquid over the garlic and cap the jar. Let the jar stand in a cool place for at least a month. Before you serve the delicacy, slice each garlic head crosswise into three pieces. If you keep this pickle in a cool, dark place it should last a year! (By the way—a nonreactive pan means that the acids in food won’t react with the metal. Cast iron, for example, will react so you would not want to cook anything acidic in it. Any non-stick pan will also do!)
I’ll tell you about few other great pickled snacks I love: Pickled green grapes, plumbs and cantaloupe chunks. I’ll tell you about the plums since they are my favorite:
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks broken
4 thin slices of ginger
4 cups of sugar
3 cups of red wine vinegar
3 cups of red wine
6 pounds fresh prune plumbs
Place the ginger and other spices in a spice bag and put into a non-reactive pot with the sugar, vinegar and wine. Keep stirring and bring to a boil. After boiling, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Take the pot off the stove and let cool for around a half an hour.
You don’t want your plums to burst so prick them three or four times with a needle or skewer—put the plums into a bowl and pour the syrup over them. (Linda Ziedrich, the famous pickling lady says also to tuck the spice bag among the plumbs) and let sit for 12 hours.
Drain off the syrup into a nonreactive pot, add the spice bag and bring the mixture to a boil. After the syrup has come to a boil, take off the stove for cooling. Pour the cooled syrup over the plums and “tuck in” the spice bag. Leave the plums in the syrup at room temperature for another 12 hours.
Put the plums, along with their syrup and the spice bag into a nonreactive pot. Heat the plumbs over very low heat, stirring gently until the plums start to crack. Take a slotted spoon, transfer the plums to mason jar. Boil the syrup until it is very thick, remove the spice bag, and pour the syrup over the plums but leave a ½ inch head space. Close the jar (or jars) and “process” the jarin boiling water for around ten minutes.
Store the cooled jars in a cool, dry, dark place for a month minimum before eating these great treats.
You can truly have lots of fun pickling and so serving the unexpected to your party guests or just enjoy yourself. Is it worth the pickling trouble—you bet it is! And this reminds me—as far as my secret for great pig’s feet. I buy them at the market Market pig’s feed are dog-gone good!
Note: I found the plum recipe in “The Joy of Pickling” the best pickling book I’ve ever seen and a perfect addition to your kitchen library. Linda Ziedrich wrote it and it’s available on Amazon.