cucina bene; mangia bene (get into pickles)
I love idioms and phrases and I always want to know where they originated and ‘in a pickle’ is no exception. We know the phrase as finding oneself in a difficult situation when it is used. According to some sources, it comes from the 16th century Dutch “in de pekel zitten” which means to sit in the brine that is used to make pickles. OK, that certainly fits the definition as we know it—I wouldn’t want that to happen to me. Another story comes from our British forefathers who used rods that were soaked in brine on child labor to increase the pain when used—nice.
Anyway, as always, I am going to talk about the eating of pickles and why you should make your own. There will be no instruction to sit in or soak rods in brine either.
Pickles can be found in nearly every culture and have become something of a food trend here in the USA. There is a huge difference between the commercial pickles available in grocery stores that have been pickled in vinegar and pasteurized and a homemade pickle that has been fermented naturally. Natural pickling occurs when a vegetable has been salted, put into a clean container and left to sit at room temperature for a period of time. The salt draws out the excess water, preserves the vegetable and helps regulate the fermentation process by keeping bad bacteria out and letting good bacteria in. The bacteria converts the sugars in the vegetables in to lactic acid, acetic acid, carbon dioxide and other substances; however, lactic acid is what creates the pickle and provides the delicious flavor. Once the fermentation process is complete, the pickles are refrigerated to slow or stop the process and can be eaten. I make my own kombucha which is fermented tea and I also make my own kimchee in addition to other types of pickles. The good bacteria fermented foods introduce into the body are thought to have many healthful properties from reduction of cholesterol, fending off cancer cells, aiding in weight loss to assisting in assimilating vitamins and minerals better. All I know is that homemade pickles taste better and are easy to make.
Firm vegetables make good pickles such as: cauliflower, broccoli, beets, turnips and carrots. In addition to cucumbers and cabbage, you can also pickle asparagus, artichokes, onions, garlic, tomatillos, peppers and even Brussels sprouts. I’m going to leave you with 2 recipes: one for quick pickles that don’t require canning or water baths and one that uses the natural fermentation process. Try one or both and get into making your own pickles. Buon Appetitio!
Naturally Fermented Pickled Vegetables: