Sunday, September 23, 2007

Aunt Della's Unexpected Dills

While exploring the world of pickle potential in my Googlemobile, I found one site where the blog owner asked readers for favorite refrigerator pickle recipes. The response that charmed me came from a woman who said, simply, "I always use Aunt Della's recipe," and she laid it out for everyone. It called for 1 cup mayo, 1/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Slice in 1 large cucumber. Keep in covered container in refrigerator.

Okay. That's just about exactly the same mixture I was taught to use when making traditional cole slaw dressing -- except I was taught to go heavier on the sugar and vinegar. And I had one regular green cuke in the basket. And I was pretty sure Aunt Della wouldn't mind if I dilled up her recipe. See, it tastes pretty good the way Aunt Della lays it out and, to my mind, tastes even better when I jack up the sugar and vinegar portions. Still, something was lacking.

Aha! As I munched away at a dressing-coated slice of cuke, my gaze fell upon the bottle of McCormick's "It's A Dilly" seasoning. This is good stuff, Coffee Mates. A salt-free mixture of onion, garlic, dill weed, lemon peel, dill seed, and jalapeno pepper. (Don't worry -- I think they just waved the jalapeno pepper in the general direction of the mixture because I sure can't taste any.) I sprinkled a generous portion into Aunt Della's dressing, mixed everything up good and sampled another cuke dripping with the thick and now dill-speckled dressing.

Oh yeah. Oh, this is righteous. It is. During the early football games, I had a most excellent sandwich that consisted of a layer of cukes, a layer of cheddar, and another layer of cukes. Although the dressing is thick, it really is a good idea to eat the sandwich over a plate because it's messy, messy, messy. Good stuff often is, have you noticed?

Now for the report on the pickles I packed away yesterday. I'm happy to tell you they turned out pretty close to perfect. Okay, fairly close. Well, they would have probably been fantastic if my grandson James -- who is a Steelers fan but otherwise a great kid -- hadn't been laying some serious smack on my Raiders just as I was sprinkling the dried chili peppers into the pickle mixture. I vaguely remember thinking the chili was old so maybe not as robust as fresh so I should probably use a bit more. Mostly, though, I was concentrating on defending my gridiron guys so there was, perhaps, not quite as much attention paid to detail as there should have been.

What I'm saying is, when I sampled the pickles this morning, they were crunchy and tasty and crispy and -- HOLY FLAMETHROWER, BATMAN!

I think there are only skid marks where my tonsils used to be but I'm afraid to look. Needless to say, I have performed emergency procedures to alleviate the crisis. First I drained the pickles and then I rinsed the bejaysus out of 'em. Then I dumped them in a bowl and covered them with equal parts cider vinegar and water, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Put everything back in the freezer bag and returned it to the refrigerator. I just checked -- the procedure was successful. Although the pickles still generate heat, now it's merely Pleasantly Toasty instead of Raging Inferno From the Third Ring of Hell.

The final pickle procedure of the day was a far more sedate sort of production and is pictured below. In a small saucepan, put 1 cup water, 1 cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup wine vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons mixed pickling spice and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer four minutes. Thinly slice 2 or 3 cucumbers (a couple of cups?) and put in container. Slowly pour hot liquid over cukes, filling to the top. Let cool to room temperature, top off with remaining liquid (if any) and keep covered in refrigerator.

Okay, the thing is, with refrigerator pickles, you're not supposed to leave them sitting there forever, the way you can do a jar of pickles that has been seriously processed, either commercially or at home. Which is why most refrigerator pickle recipes are for small quantities that, theoretically, can be consumed in a couple or three weeks. And I now have one small batch of the sneaky hot pickles, one small batch of the sedate pickles and a dilly of a bowl of Aunt Della's pickles.

And I still have some cucumbers left.

Well, guess what? You can also make freezer pickles! These can be kept up to 6 months in the freezer but should be consumed in a week or so after being thawed in the refrigerator. Which means one should freeze them in small portions, correct? Okay. I've got a couple of recipes lined up for freezer pickles but haven't decided which one is gonna make the cut. In the meantime, here are a couple of links that might interest anyone wanting to pickle any excess produce. This one, for instance, is a Yahoo Directory of 15 links to pickle sites. One of which is my guy, Alton Brown. If that's not enough for you, venture over to Hungry Monster for an unbelievable list of 286 pickle recipes. That'll keep you from playing in traffic!

Now if you'll kindly excuse me, there is an evening football game to entertain me as I munch on some more of Aunt Della's Unexpected Dills. To which I'm going to add some cherry tomatoes -- just because I can.





9 comments:

John Bailey said...

Mmmmm! Pickles! And just as Autumn swings in, too. I was wandering along the 'seasonal' aisle in the supermarket on Saturday and they have a majestic display of pickles of all shapes, sizes and varieties. There's a major movement of working folks around Europe these days, and they bring their recipes with them... so many pickles, so little time!

bonnie said...

All this pickle talk I remember my mom trying to make them the old fashioned way. For days they sat in a crock with a plate on top and for days she would fuss because they just weren't turning out to suit her.

Our refrigerator wouldn't have been large enough to hold the amount she did.

Funny I don't remember eating any of them. :-)

Jo said...

Gee, Dee, I'd say you've gotten yourself into a pickle. Love your way with words.

Mage And George said...

OK, today I am going to attempt to make a lower fat version of this. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

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