BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Frost Warning

Scrolling across the top of the screen like a slowly spreading poison, the headline “Severe Frost Warning” stops me in my tracks. Every gardener tempts fate near the end of a prolific growing season, pushing the elements to squeeze out the very last drops of warmth and sunshine. Sure, we’re firmly enmeshed in November now, but temperatures rebound and swing wildly for weeks to come. There could still be more produce to reap yet. I’m no gambler though, so the imminent threat of dewy ice crystals sinking their teeth into fragile leaves set off alarm bells. Save the tomato babies! Don’t let the poor things freeze to death!

Hastily plucking all the immature green orbs and thus severing them from their nurturing vines does present a new, obvious problem. Unripe tomatoes can be coaxed to soften and blush to a redder hue with a bit more time on the counter, but with my luck, the stubborn things will refuse to cooperate as nature intended. Half will likely remain just as hard and inhospitable as the day they were picked, while the other half will simply give up the fight early and rot.

Well, not this year. This time, embraced for the astringent, punchy fruits that they are, every last one will be eaten and devoured. Pickled and preserved, this year’s premature harvest will be cherished as if the timing was intentional.

Sticking largely to traditional additions, the goal was to infuse my green cherry tomatoes with a fresh, brightly flavored brine while still yielding a comfortingly familiar sour snack. My dad grew up enjoying larger pickled green tomatoes served on the relish tray all through childhood, either sliced or quartered, but always present no matter the season. His approval will be the ultimate test, so whether or not they pass muster is yet to be seen. Truthfully, I can’t speak to the end results yet, as fresh tomatoes will still need at least a week to attain pickled perfection, but this is a recipe that can’t wait to be shared. Quickly, before the first frost, gather up your own green tomatoes and let them shine with what they already have to offer. With a tiny bit of prep and planning, you’ll have delightful little salty, sour additions to cocktails (best Bloody Mary ever, anyone?), salads, appetizers, and everything in between.

Pickled Green Cherry Tomatoes

1 Pound Green (Unripe) Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 Pound Frozen Pearl Onions, Thawed
1 Teaspoon Whole Peppercorns
Approximately 1/4 Ounce Fresh Dill (A small bunch; a few springs; however many you like)
4 Large Cloves Garlic, Thinly Sliced
1 Cup Water
3/4 Cup White Vinegar
3/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt

Thoroughly wash and dry your tiny tomatoes and remove any stems. Set out four 1/2-pint glass jars and divide the pearl onions equally between them, along with the pepper corns and fresh dill. Add one clove of sliced garlic into the bottom of each, and finally distribute your tomatoes on top, filling the jars to the brim.

In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, combine the water, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt. The lemon juice will make your brine cloudy, but it tastes so much fresher and brighter than just straight vinegar- It’s a sacrifice worth making! Cook, stirring periodically, until the mixture comes to a full boil and the salt has completely dissolved. Pour the hot brine right into your packed jars without letting it cool, and immediately secure the lids.

Allow the jars to come to room temperature before moving them into the fridge for safe keeping. These are quick pickles, so they won’t last quite as long or have the same shelf life as traditionally canned pickles. Let the tomatoes cure for at least a week before enjoying, and keep for up to 4 months in the refrigerator.

Makes 4 Pints

Printable Recipe


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Pickle-Licious

Not everyone grooves on desserts. It’s a tough reality to accept, but I get it: Some sweet teeth are never properly developed, for whatever reason, which allows certain people to drift through life without craving a single cupcake or brownie. Truly. Despite my penchant for the more sugary side of cooking, I can empathize with this small but largely misunderstood crowd. My own sweet tooth is so deeply rooted, so extreme, that I seem to have developed a salt tooth that’s just as persistent in making its desires known. As a wee tot, before I could even see above the kitchen counters, you might see a tiny hand pop up out of no where, searching blindly for the hors d’oeuvre platter than undoubtedly contained a small mountain of briny jumbo olives. Savoring those enormous salt bombs, I relished they way they fit perfectly over each small finger, capping my stubby paw with a very fetching olive manicure.

Should a plate of pickles be available to garnish sandwiches at a luncheon, others knew that any toppers should be selected right away, before the bulk of those gherkins curiously vanished over the course of the meal. Fresh, lightly soured dill pickles were always the best, still tasting more of cucumber than aged pickle, thoroughly infused with herbs and licked with salt. A good pickle is still hard to find, but that unique pickle flavor is surprisingly easy to replicate, even when there are no cucumbers to be found.

The roasted chickpea craze that swept the blogs has died down a bit, but it seemed to me that there was still a whole lot of unexplored territory to cover with these humble beans. Like any other versatile snack food, the flavor possibilities are endless, and so the serendipitous sighting of pickle-flavored potato chips got my wheels turning again…

To impart that characteristic vinegary bite, cooked chickpeas are soaked in a classic pickle brine overnight before being slowly roasted to crunchy perfection. A full battery of herbs and spices join the mix, creating a balanced flavor profile that’s far more satisfying than your average salty snack. Full of good stuff like fiber and protein, a handful will happily keep hunger at bay, and help you resist the urge to plunge into the pickle jar for a direct injection of sodium.

Even if sugar is not your racket, I still have your number… I’m secretly a salt fiend too, after all.

Dill Pickle Chickpea Crunchies

Basic Brine:

1/2 Cup Cold Water
1/2 Cup White Vinegar
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 – 3 Teaspoons Light Agave Nectar

3 Cups Cooked Chickpeas

Seasonings:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Roughly Chopped Fresh Dill
3 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 Teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Mustard Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/4 Teaspoon Celery Seed
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

Place all of the ingredients for the brine in a medium-sized jar, including the chickpeas, shake it up, and place it in the fridge. Allow the brine mixture to infuse into the beans for 12 – 24 hours. As one might presume, the longer the chickpeas soak, the more strongly they’ll be flavored with vinegar. It’s up to you whether that’s a good or bad thing. Bear in mind that the bite will mellow significantly after a trip to the oven, so don’t be afraid of having very vinegary beans at this stage.

Once the chickpeas have been “quick pickled,” drain them thoroughly but do not rinse. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees while you measure out and prep the seasonings. Toss the chickpeas into a bowl along with the oil and all of the aromatics, stirring so that every last bean is thoroughly coated. Transfer to a jellyroll pan or large baking dish (anything with sides- These edible marbles will want to roll right out otherwise) and spread them evenly in one layer.

Bake for 45 – 60 minutes, stirring every 15 or so, until the chickpeas have shrunken in size and are golden brown, with darker spots in some areas. It can be hard to tell when they’re done since the chickpeas will continue to crisp up as they cool, but listen closely and they should rattle when you shake the pan. Remove from heat and let cool completely before snacking and/or storing in an airtight container.

Makes 1 1/2 – 2 Cups Chickpea Crunchies

Printable Recipe

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