..an Easy, Tasty way to Diversify Your Snacking:
(c) 2014, Davd
During the “Holiday Season”, at parties and even early in the sequence of fancy dinners, you’ll probably see lots of pickles. Personally, I generally like dills best; but bread-and-butter pickles can also be mighty good, and the peppery pickled mixed vegetables as well. If you serve store-bought pickles—save the brine. If you go to a potluck, anywhere that pickles are served, and you can “scrounge” the brine—save it. The brine from a jar of store pickles will almost certainly make you a jar of “Lazy Man’s Pickles” for snacking in the New Year.
I learned this technique from John Romaniuk, a good old Ukrainian-Canadian welder whose shop was in Nanaimo and who lived near Nanoose, where i rented a cabin from him for about a year. Like most men who have their own business, he valued efficiency, and when it came to pickles, he showed me efficiency i’d never noticed—and when he’d shown me, i never forgot.
Once in a while he’d invite me to his house for a beer or two, or for coffee, and one day he served pickled eggs with the beer. Dill-pickled eggs, and really good with beer and pretzels.
I’d always liked pickled eggs, but i’d never thought i had the spare time to work my way slowly through some recipes and find a few i liked, then gradually adjust the recipes to my preferences. Pickling recipes tend to be rather complicated, at least the ones in the cookbooks i had were; and i’ve always found plenty of interesting work to do with my time. Even if you can do anything, there’s not time enough to do everything, and pickling was one of those “not time enough” things, for me.
John had found an easy way: When he ate the last of a jar of dill pickles, he put the brine back in the ‘fridge [in that same jar]; and before long, he’d boil up six or seven eggs. When the hard-boiled eggs had cooled, he simply peeled the shells off and put them in that jar of brine; and let them sit in the brine, in the ‘fridge, for at least two weeks.
I started imitating his technique, and it worked in my ‘fridge, too.
This, to me, is classic “guy cooking”: A good result from a simple effective technique, with an absolute minimum of fussing. I get two jars of pickles to eat, from buying one; and more variety in my diet from less work at the cookstove.
However, i noticed that i was buying more jars of cucumber pickles than i was making of pickled eggs. So, of course, i asked myself: What else would taste better, or as good but different, if i soaked it two weeks in pickling brine? Two answers came over the next few months: Carrots and turnips. Yellow turnips (rutabagas in French) came out better as pickles than white ones, and their flavour improved more than that of carrots, for being pickled.
I also tried pickling eggs, carrots, and turnips in the brine from bread-and-butter pickles, which is sweet. Dill pickle brine, i learned, works well with eggs, carrot strips, and turnips cut more or less like potatoes are cut for “French fries.” Bread-and-butter pickle brine works well with eggs and turnips, and it’s OK applied to carrots but in my ‘umble opinion, not as special. Carrots are already sweet, so there’s less of a contrast to give the soaked carrots that tang we associate with pickles.
To cut turnips for pickling, i slice them about half an inch thick, “parallel to the equator*”, peel the slices, and then cut the slices into half-inch strips. The texture seems to come out a little better that way, than if i slice them pole to pole. Carrots, i cut lengthwise. You can make the strips a little narrower than a half inch, but i wouldn’t go narrower than one centimetre [3/8 inch]. Both go into the brine uncooked.
I suggest you write the date you put the egg or vegetable into the brine, on the jar label. I use a felt-tip permanent marker to do the job; and when i’ve emptied the jar, i soak off the label. If you make pickles in a jar with the label already off, the marker will write on glass, and the writing can wash off in the dishpan but lasts well enough in the ‘fridge.
(Just in case you didn’t guess this already: The trick only works once. When you’ve made a batch of pickled eggs, carrots, or turnips—you’ve used up most of the available spice and vinegar in the brine that was left after the original cucumber pickles. There’s not enough vinegar nor enough spices left to make another round of pickles—there’s a wee bit left, but not enough to flavour or to protect a second “round”. Your first round of “Lazy Man’s Pickles” should keep in the fridge for a month, imaginably a few months. If you tried for a second round, it might start to decay within a week or two.)
Carrots and turnips are fairly often available “on sale” for a dollar a kilo (45 cents per pound) or a little less, around here; and 50-cent-a-pound ($1.10 per kilo) prices come on quite often. I haven’t weighed the strips i use to fill a jar, yet—because once they go into the brine, it’s very messy to take them out again for weighing, and until the jar fills, i don’t know how much exactly will go in it. I’d suppose that a one-litre pickle jar will hold about a pound of vegetable, but not much more, using the simple rule “put in enough so the brine comes about as high in the jar as it was the first time.” So your second jar of pickles will cost you 40 to 65 cents, compared to $2-$3 for the cucumber pickles you bought at the store.
Not bad, eh?
Benjamin Franklin, i believe it was, said that laziness, at least as much as necessity, fosters invention. John Romaniuk was an inventive, self-employed master welder who didn’t leave his disciplined laziness at the shop—and now, you too can benefit: Tasty variety in the winter vegetables, pickled eggs that take 10-20 minutes of work and two weeks of waiting, and the cost is about as low as you’ll find.
* Think of the root as the south pole and the top as the north pole. I find the sliced turnips are easier to peel than whole turnips—and i suggest you save the peels to make “vegetable stock.” Turnips give a good taste to winter soups and stews, even to some sauces; and for myself, i like the taste more than the texture of cooked turnips. By pickling the turnips and cooking the peelings into vegetable stock, i get both benefits.