An expression like “Being in a real pickle ” suggests a place you don’t want to be, but I don’t understand why.
I like pickles. Any fruit or veggie can be pickled. I’ve even met a few people whom I suspected were pickled.
Pickles are those necessary toppings that make your hamburger perfect. As a relish, pickles give an extra-sour boost to the bitter mustard and smoky flavor of a grilled hot dog, and they’re a great appetizer, especially when battered and deep-fried.
I’ll willingly eat pickled beets, but I won’t eat beets any other way. It’s a special treat for me that both Firehouse Subs and Jersey Mike’s Subs include a kosher dill spear with their sandwiches. I especially love pickled okra and look for it on every salad bar before reaching for the iceberg or romaine lettuce.
The most common varieties of pickles are made from cucumbers, but that doesn’t limit the various flavors that can be derived from this veggie. There are both sweet and sour dill pickles. There’s a semi-sweet variety called bread-and-butter pickles that are excellent on a ham sandwich.
All cucumber pickle recipes call for thin-sliced, quartered or whole cucumbers and some type of vinegar. Some call for distilled white vinegar; others call for apple vinegar. Most recipes also call for salt. Dill-pickle recipes obviously call for dill, either as a seed, fresh dill weed or both.
Some recipes include an all-in-one pickling spice, consisting of mustard seeds, allspice, coriander seeds, cloves, ground ginger, red-pepper flakes and cinnamon. Most sweet-pickle recipes call for turmeric. Some dilute the pickling ingredients with added water.
One of my all-time favorite episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” was when poor old Aunt Bee tried to make homemade pickles for a pickle competition at a local fair. She wanted so badly to make a pickle that could compete with her snobby friend Claire’s pickles, which always won the grand prize. Unfortunately, her pickles were terrible — “kerosene cucumbers,” as Barney described them. They didn’t mean to cheat, but Andy and Barney decided to help her out by replacing Aunt Bee’s rotten cucs with a store-bought brand.
Because the show was about a North Carolina community, I suspect that brand was Mt. Olive Pickles, which still produces my favorite pickles. Just as the area surrounding Vidalia is known for its sweet onions, Mount Olive is known for its cucumbers. My wife likes their baby dills, and I like their kosher spears, but we also keep on hand a jar of sweet pickles for cole slaw and tater salad and a jar of sliced sour dills for burgers and sandwiches.
It’s not unusual to see three or four kinds of pickles in our refrigerator. Sometimes, you may find a jar of pickled okra, but that never lasts long.
Pickles are one of those condiments that are a big part of other things we enjoy, but unless you made it yourself, you don’t realize pickles are in it. Without finely chopped pickles, tater salad and cole slaw are just boiled taters and chopped cabbage with a little mayo added.
A barbecue restaurant in Valdosta that has long since gone out of business used to serve deep-fried pickles before it became a fad. I’m glad we now can get fried pickles at Zaxby’s and other restaurants. The Catfish House in Adel serves a pickle appetizer that’s a sweet pickle with thin slices of Vidalia onions and various spices. I’ll eat the entire bowl before my catfish dinner arrives.
I really don’t know if pickles are good for my health, and to be honest, I really don’t care if they aren’t. Except for the sweet variety, they aren’t fattening. The vinegar is good for digestion, and I suspect the spices are good for something other than flavor. If not, I’ll continue eating pickles, anyway, because I like them.
Email Murray at email@example.com.