Bring back the pickle!

Everyone who has ever liked pickles knows what do do with a dill spear– you just eat it! Part of my goal is to get people to see that pickles are more than just dills and bread & butters. Pickling is a medium, and, as such, you can pickle just about anything. (There are some things that just don’t sound like a good idea, such as pickled broccoli, which must be grey-green, cabbage-y, and mushy, and this is coming from a broccoli lover!) When I say, “Bring back the pickle!” what I mean is that I want people to view pickles as what they once were seen to be by many of our ancestors: vegetables (usually) that have been preserved to be eaten another day. They’re just tasty veggies! Use them as a side dish, a condiment, a marinade, a complimentary companion to roasts, casseroles, or, of course, sandwiches. Last winter, I ate dilly beans, usually fried up on the griddle in a little bacon grease or butter, almost every day at lunch until March, when my body said “enough!” to salt. I have used an experimental tangy onion relish mixed with maple sugar and ground mustard as a glaze for a pork roast. I serve pickles with just about everything. They are a good snack, and because I create a wide variety, it’s hard to find a dish that some sort of pickle wouldn’t go with! Our refrigerator shelves are always brimming with partial jars of different pickle varieties.

Look back into your own family’s history. I would love to know what pickles were made and how they were consumed in my family’s past, and in yours. Do you have English ancestry? I’ve been told by an acquaintance who grew up in England that there were always hard boiled eggs pickled, salty small onions, and various mixed-veggie pickles, all done in malt vinegar, few of them sweet, and all often served with roasts and stews, as well as alongside lunches (and as bar snacks). Do you have Mennonite, Amish, or similar heritage? Talk about pickles! Now, I don’t personally like sweet pickles, so I can’t really get behind a lot of those recipes, but I’m always willing to try them. And, I have to say that any dinner party I throw would not be complete with at least a few varieties of pickles on the table. My bible of pickling recipes, Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling, has a lot to say about pickles in world cultures. Russia, Japan, Korea, Germany, England, and basically everywhere else where there is farming and some way of fermenting vegetables or preserving them with an acid, all have pickling history, pickles as part of their culture. So if your ancestors hailed from just about anywhere, they could well have eaten lots of different pickles. Pickles may well have been part of their food culture, and thus, part of their total culture.

As someone who studied anthropology in college, and someone who loves history, as well as pickles, I find this fascinating, and inspiring. And so, Bring back the pickle!

I would love to here from you about old pickle recipes, flavor memories from your childhood, or stories.

-Jaska

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