Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Pickle Blog of Many Much Greatness.

So there I was, sitting on top of a six gallon bucket just whacking the hell out of a plastic lid with a hammer. And what goes better with hammers than a screw driver? It was merely by chance that I had been drinking them all morning. Okay, not all morning. Actually, it was noon and I had slept in.  

Recently I've been doing smaller batches of cucumber pickles with some success on a semi-regular basis since I got this "pickle-it" pickle making system. I say, some success, because I did make an error when buying organic cucumbers at the Safeway and I found out that organic does not mean unwaxed. And this was how I learned that vegetables with wax on them make mushy pickles.

I also found out that taking three weeks to make about two dozen cucumber pickles is bullshit. This is America. Sure, I may have swiped my blog title from an Italian man who was learning English at the time and now calls me up every few weeks to complain that since he has been living in Ireland now for the past 15 years he probably speaks better English than I do and couldn't I PLEASE stop embarrassing him by making him remember the times when he did not know how to conjugate correctly? And it's true. I still sound far worse stumbling through my Italian than most people do speaking any language that they were not born to. But I am an American. And in America we don't care. And in America we make fun of those people that do care. And in America we make things in large large batches because if we can't have it now, we certainly don't want to wait for it later.

So, I bought a 6 gallon beer making bucket.

You may wonder why I didn't try to make beer in that bucket. There is a very good reason for that. 

It will take too long or be too irrelevant to explain. Just accept that I will not make beer with this bucket.

In my discoveries about making cucumber pickles I have learned a great many things aside from that fact that one should not use a pre-waxed cucumber to make a pickle. One of these things is that if you buy a really expensive pickling kit from Pickle-it and you use boiling water to sterilize the glass containers before you put items into it, it may first spider crack along and through the glass  before imploding in on itself and this will cause you to cry. Because of this issue, I now use a diluted bleach solution to sterilize my items.

Also, you should wash your cucumbers. But not, like, WASH wash your cucumbers. It is of no use to you if they are so sterile that they are like the virginal kindergarten teacher who told my entire class that Santa Claus was not real so that we would not be falsely wowed by that tainted temptress wrapped in a crimson mink. You want a little disease on them so that they will be zesty like a slightly used whore. A little history gives a lot of spice.

Another thing I have learned is that it is actually important to place the pickling ingredients, in whatever container you are going to use, in layers. This is so the smaller bits do not float to the top where they could possibly mold and then spoil the entire batch.

I like to use the mixed pickling spices that you get in jars from the super market. I don't know why. They don't add all that much flavor in the end but they are kind of like those lucky socks that baseball people wear or lucky underwear wrestlers wear so they don't get a slick finger in their bum to get them off balance or so that they can get that extra slick finger in their bum to give them some balance. 

All of the spices you want to use should really go in first because they are, in fact, the most floaty. And by that, I mean that they are the most likely to float.

On top of the spices should go more spices.

If you are pickling you really need things that have a magical additive in them called "tannins" and they will make your cucumber retain that valued crunch when you are ready to pull the cucumbers out. Think of them like that sparkly marital aid to keep the juices flowing after 25 years.  It could be porno. It could be role play. It could be extra marital affairs which are hopefully consensual since  Cookings of Many Much Greatness was not a cooking blog built on a bed of marital lies. Or it could be large swaths of bay leaves mixed with oak leaves and a few grape leaves. You have to do what you have to do here  because, despite all the platitudes one might give you, if your pickle is flaccid no one is really going to want to eat it. 

Next, the herbs. Yes, I am aware that herbs are actually spices. Typically spice in a non dried format. In this case we have fresh dill and fresh thai basil and some other sexy spices which I forgot the names of but they just smelled *divine* when Sister Mary TimothySimplicity gave them to me and I am not going to be all discriminatory about which plants are worthy and which plants should be segregated out. NO! This is an all inclusive pickle. Any form of spice is welcome. Whether dried or fresh. Whether Western or Asian. Whether flowered or not. IT is a pickle of the people. IT is a pickle for everyone.  A pickle for the people is a part of all people and all people's contributions are what make the people's pickle beautiful! Except, you know, those crackly dried broken bits of herb. If your herbs are dried out and crumbly like a cracker, you best get those motherfuckers out of there. You *cannot* trust them. No matter how clean they are, no matter who they claim to have not been with, a crumbly cracker of an herb can ruin the whole batch with it's funky stank. Keep it out.  

Next goes in a fuckload of garlic. I know that many of you have been unhappy with my imprecise measuring terms. That is why, in this blog, I have made sure to capture a visual representation of what it means to add one fuckload. I hope this is helpful:

On top of that goes precisely a shit ton of onions. Again, my people's have a measuring dialect which is not easily translatable. And because of that, I have taken pictures to give you the information that you need to make an accurate measuring assessment.:

Now the cucumbers. The cucumbers must have their tips cut off to assist in the pickling process. The ends, apparently, can inhibit the pickling and so it is really best to neatly trim each end off. Actually it is only the flowering end which inhibits pickling. However I can't tell one end from another and certainly don't know which is the end of a phallic shaped melon and which tip a flower comes out of. In order to be safe,  I cut both ends. This is probably why it is a really good thing I never became an Orthodox Rabbi. That and because, since I have mouth herpes, I would probably just drink all the wine instead of putting it onto a child's penis. Just kidding, I don't have mouth herpes. I'm just an alcoholic.

After all the ends and tips are cut, you should shove them all into the container vertically. It is a good idea to shove them so tight that none of them will float up on their own. Sometimes I imagine each container like a phone booth in a 1976 gay bathhouse where they have that contest to see how many cocks can fit into a limited space. Since Gun Oil hasn't been invented yet, you only have the natural condensation to work with. Now, you don't want to cause a urethral fracture, but if you know that possibly one more can wiggle into one of those dark cracks or crevices, the smaller yet slimmer cukes are really your best bet for the win. And this is why size really *is* important.

And of course size is important. If I didn't have this large a bucket I wouldn't be able to create this effort to at least try to ferment enough pickles to last the next two months.

I know what you are thinking: Ha ha ha! She thinks these pickles might even last the next two months!

At this point you should be boiling some water. About 30 cups worth to be exact.  I know, you all are all fancy and think in quarts and gallons. But I only have a god damn cup measurer, okay? And it only goes up to four cups at a time. So fuck you with your fancy one gallon measuring devices.

As I said, you will need 30 cups and then you need this wacky thing here which will help you measure all the salt you need.

I made a 3% brine because it is saltier than a sailor's mouth. Any higher, and my delicate sensibilities may be compromised. Despite what some of you may think, *I* am a lady.

Apparently one regular sized metal camping plate is exactly the right size to hold all the cumbers under the brine. Mine is Blue with some white speckles. I don't think they really make any other kind of coated metal camping dishes. I've never actually never seen any other patterns or colors. Not even cute little bird designs or those heinous flowers that are supposed to look whimsical and friendly but really look almost exactly like a butterfly was smashed into the surface.

With your plate,  you will need a heavy thing to hold the plate down. I used a sterilized jar filled with filtered water and sealed with the same lid that came with the jar. But you might use stones or kitty litter sealed in durable ziplock baggies or even your neighbor's mini hookah, provided that it is totally clean and sterile since it is going to be touching the pickling water.

This still won't be enough to keep everything submerged. You will want to add some old pickle juice on top. Not gross/old. Just recently left behind from previously fermented and then eaten pickles. You need to get this, like a sourdough starter, from a batch of pickles you made earlier. If you do not have any, make a few more cups of the 3% brine and pour it on top.

You will need a hammer at this point. How else are you going to get the lid on? It's important you sit on top of the bucket with your entire weight while hammering the lid onto your large bucket.


Don't forget that damn airlock! What else are you going to stick in an unyielding rubbery hole to safely contain that growing funk? 

When you are done hammering, you will need something suitable to swaddle your beer bucket in order to protect it further from light exposure. I chose a 1960's teal house robe made of some kind of early substitute for fake fur. Fake fur was so expensive then, what with the war going on and all.

Now, since you cannot see your pickles through the opaque beer making container, you must trust in JEeZus and the smells emanating from the air lock at the top of your bucket to guide you in believing that everything is going okay in there. It's like, when you don't know the STD status of that grrl and she tells you it is okay but you just don't know but you  are still going to dive in there anyway so you split her legs and take a nice big long whiff and it smells just like fresh cut cactus and citrus peel, and that is how you decide you don't need a blood test? Well, this is how it going to be with the pickles. Except, you know, with a whole other set of fragrances.

As the days and weeks go by, you can trust that there are gasses being produced by gently pressing upon the lid of your tub and watching the little tubular  thing in the middle of your three piece air lock go up and then down. And of course there will be more smells.

Every once in a while you are going to have to pull the lid off. If you are feeling really lazy, you can take out the three piece airlock and do your best to try to look through that hole in the top of the lid which is about a centimeter in diameter. It will help if you are assisted with a really high powered flash light. This will kind of tell you that everything is still submerged and that it generally looks all right. However, everyonce in a while, this won't suffice. You are going to really need to get that goddamn lid off and take a good farty smelling look at your pickles. I say farty, because your entire house is going to smell like a pickle the size of a great dane farted all throughout your house. And this is why you should have kept the damn thing in a basement and now you feel cursed because it is too late and you just have to let it live its farty existence outside your bedroom door, even though you really could take it down at any time but you keep telling yourself that it's too late so you won't have to admit to yourself that you are actually just lazy.  

But anyways, back to the looking. It is really really hard to take that damn lid off. The parts you pop off will pop back down as soon as you can pull an adjacent corner up. You might lose fingernails and teeth which may or may not fall into the pickle vat and you shouldn't really tell your friends about that. Still, you must persist. 

There might be things like mold and actual bad smells which are much worse than pickle farts. Some people say to remove the mold and go on as usual. Others say that if you remove the mold and then pretend the mold never happened the mold will lay secret mold spores in the body of the pickles which will infect you when you eat them, eventually turning you into a hollow pickle making automaton shell of a person you used to be who can only live to continually make more and more pickles contaminated with mind control mold spore infections which you then disseminate to all of your friends who then become infected themselves and carry on a new life of simply making pickles. Forever.  

However, with my handy dandy new mold guide, you can now identify those who are infected from regular enthusiastic pickle making enthusiasts. One tail tell sign is that the zombie pickle men don't cut the mold off the cheese when it sprouts. They just eat it with a blank and tired look in their eyes. 

Occasionally the tired blank looks of mold infectees and non discriminating eating habits get confused with your average garden variety exhausted parent of a toddler child. So, whatever you do, hold off from stabbing them in the chest until you are really sure!

Once you have the lid off, you are supposed to taste the brine with a clean spoon to make sure it is going well and also that you won't poison your friends. The brine will be cloudy and possibly beige in color. This is normal. The beige color tells you that the pickling is working and that the water is developing all of the special pickle nutrients and magical enzyme type things and possibly the health components that we have all heard about so much recently from various health magazines. 

 Once the brine flavor is where you want it, or you are just so creeped out you cannot fucking stand it anymore (normally around two weeks, though some wait as long as a month)  you can release the pickles. Make sure you wash your hands really well. You should try to ascertain whether the pickles are slimy or if they make any sort of dull snap sound when broken. If they don't snap, they feel squishy, or they smell at all like Lake Merritt in Oakland, you should probably throw them away. If some are hollow inside, that's okay. Sometimes they do that if your market let them sit too long before you bought them, or if you let them sit too long because you had a feeling you shouldn't be doing this in the first place but then told yourself that you spent 30 bucks on cucumbers so you might as well go through with it.

 You will most certainly need to have a fuck-ton of clean quart jars at your disposal. This is where you finally realize that this was not a fun hobby at all and you have gone absolutely too fucking far and just what in fucking hell are you doing with your life anyway? This is the time that if parents of toddlers were around they would stand and point and laugh at you for your poor life choices, no matter how tired they might be.  You will be up to your elbow in pickle brine. If you wore gloves to protect your hands from the stink that takes days to go away, the gloves will act as a holding container to keep the brine right on the flesh of your fingers as the salty water seeps over the top lip of your latex encased wrists. No matter what you may try to  tell yourself, you must admit that all of those gloves will never be recyclable for sex. Just forget it. No matter how careful you are,  the brine will get all over the floor.  And.... did you really have to ferment them all so close to your entire wardrobe? Your favorite pants are now ruined. At this point you have no choice but to trudge on spending several hours sterilizing and then filling the various jars that surround you on the floor which will probably never all fit in your refrigerator anyway. 

Congratulations. You are now the Howard Hughes of picklers.  

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