Sunday, October 21, 2012

In a Pickle with Wee Beasties

Greener than J Mascis' mind.
Let's just get this out of the way: climate change is real, it's happening now and it is human influenced. What we can do to stop it (like turn off our damn computers for a minute and go outside and play) is the important question, but if I know human nature whatever we do will be too little too late.

That's okay, the world will go on without us.

That said, despite water shortages and heat waves this year's harvest was not the total disaster some forecast back in the Spring. While conditions may have been a trammel for this year's anemic, abbreviated tomato season, the tomatoes it produced were intense in flavor.

Likewise, bust for many farmers may be a boom for winemakers who remind us that "the fruit must suffer." I expect 2012 to be a particularly good year for Pinot Noir along the northwest coast.

Shortages of certain crops make room for other products to shine.

That's why, in a recent trip to Rainbow Grocery Cooperative* I couldn't help but pick up some pickling cucumbers along with my usual provisions.

* Hey Rainbow, where is the Lev's Original Kombucha? That other stuff you sell is garbage.

Minimal effort, maximum awesome.
We aren't living in Mad Max's waterless wasteland just yet, but it's been unseasonably hot. Everywhere.

Back where Chowbacca!'s collective mothers live, Ohio, that means swampy, hot days and miserable sleepless nights unless you crank your greenhouse-gas producing air conditioner all the way up (until the compressor breaks or the coils freeze up from condensation).

In 99% Bittersweet's San Joaquin Valley one might as well be living in the Bedouin desert leading the charge against the Turks alongside good King Faisal (read a book).

As Dennis Leary famously said in his homage, I would like to think, to a certain type of White, male middle-class issues voter, "how about this heat?"

It's hot.

That's great for the shape-shifting lizards who secretly run the government, but that sucks for me.

On the other hand, it's perfect for a whole slew of microbes, be they yeast or lactobacillis. The same weather that produces tasty tomatoes and crispy pickling cucumbers also encourages the rampant growth of the very bacteria and other wee beasties that make pickling possible.

So, pickling cucumbers in hand, sweat upon my furrowed brow, I set upon the task of bringing together macro-flora with wee-little fauna (well, maybe not fauna, but you get my meaning) so that they can make magical congress.

Coriander Cucumber Pickles:
  • 48 or 64 ounce capacity glass jar or resealable plastic jug, with a wide lid
  • 28 ounces of water
  • 8-10 pickling cucumbers (these have soft seeds and less tough skin), well washed and halved
  • 1/4 cup Kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves and stems, well washed and cut into 3" pieces
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup of coriander seeds, lightly roasted
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, lightly roasted
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper, lightly roasted
  • Optional chile flakes, toasted
  • 6 ounces of sour pickle brine with active bacterial culture
Dissolve the salt in a small amount of warmed water, bring to room temperature by adding the remaining water and the starter brine. Add add remaining ingredients and let sit for 7-14 days at room temp, covered (release any built up gas once a day).
Dill pickles are the standard, and are quite refreshing, but I wanted something different, something exotic, so I chose cilantro instead. The results - I could not be more pleased - floral, piquant pickles that go perfectly with a Cubano sandwich or accompanying a pulled pork and kimchee English muffin slider. Or great just by themselves, perhaps with a nice margarita or a cold can of beer to wash it down.

Beer and pickles. Merica'

Now turn off the computer and go outside - while you still can!

Pulled pork English muffin sliders with kimchee and mayo, side of kimchee and pickles.