I'm Just PICKLED Pink!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bleah! Sorry folks -- but it's the only word I can think of after waking up this morning with the "Mother of all Hangovers" (thank you Saddam Hussein!). This one is a DOOZY.

It's safe to say that Venus and I spent most of our Good Friday being VERY BAD indeed. After trying and failing miserably to get our taxes done (our accountant decided to take the day off -- and didn't tell us) -- we embarked on our annual "Pacific Adventure!"

Oops -- slight typo there. There should be an *O* at the end of "Pacific." As in -- Pacifico. What is the "Pacifico Adventure?" Find the nearest Hole-in-the-Wall Mexican-themed restaurant -- order up some Pacifico beer -- dip a tortilla chip into salsa and eat -- sip (well, gulp actually) on the Pacifico.

We repeated this very process throughout our one hour lunch -- and didn't stop once the chips ran out. Foolish behavior? Yes indeed! But -- your Honor -- Pacifico is one FINE beer. That's my only defense.

Therefore -- I thought it highly appropriate to bring you today's posting: PICKLES! Why not? I'm pickled, right? I is -- therefore -- I am. Or something like that.

Actually -- I've been intending to write about this subject for quite some time now -- ever since we sampled the 2009 crop that has been brining away in some one-quart canning jars in the pantry of our kitchen. Although I did serve these pickles at our annual Super Bowl party -- I never did get around to sampling them. By the time I reached the dish -- they were gone!

I should have known then.

There are those days -- and men know this all to well -- where you've just got to have a pickle. I'm not sure how and where the mood strikes -- but it does -- and you'd better have some pickles on hand otherwise you're going to be severely disappointed.

Sure enough -- that urge came just the other day -- and I'm pleased to report that the Bird family was well-prepared for the "L'assaut du Cornichon!" (Attack of the Pickle). About 25-to-30 jars of our special and well marinated Dill Pickle creation were on hand -- so you can guess what happened next.

Lovely! It's just about the best word that I can think of when describing the first test of what Venus and I carefully and meticulously canned last summer in our North Natomas kitchen. The basic Dill Pickle recipe comes courtesy of All Recipes. But Venus and I have expanded upon this in recent years with various herbs and spices.

It also helps that all of the spices in question came straight from the backyard -- right down to the dill flowers and the Inchelium Red garlic. About the only thing that didn't come from the backyard garden is the pickling salt. Don't worry though -- we're getting there.

Some of the canned jars also included whole Thai Red Peppers -- which is more than enough to give the pickles a little bit of a spicy jolt! Once you open a jar of these pickles -- said jar doesn't last long. You can't stop at "just one."

Score an assist to Sacramento-area gardener/blogger Carri Stokes for this pefect pickle creation. She came through with some rather interesting cucumber seeds last spring after I'd failed to pick up a starter plant or plant an Armenian cucumber vine from seed. Although Armenian cucumbers aren't listed as pickling cukes -- they should be. Why? They're tough. That crunchy taste doesn't bend to six months in a canning jar filled with vinegar, water, salts and spices. Every pickle that comes out of that jar CRUNCHES like a pickle should.

But -- as it turns out -- the seeds that Carri provided were something special. What came out of those seeds looked like an Armenian cucumber vine -- but the cucumbers were some of the strangest creations I've ever seen come out of a cucumber patch. Armenian cucumbers are normally light green in color and ribbed. As you can plainly tell from this photo -- what we got was something that was sized like your average Armenian cucumber -- but it was a dark green with less ribbing.

What gives? It turns out that Carri had planted her Armenian cucumber next to another variety called a Suyo Long -- a Chinese variety that produces long -- slender cukes that are dark green and quite bumpy. I knew these cukes weren't Suyo Longs. They weren't the standard Armenian either. What were they then? It appears the two plants cross-pollinated at some point -- and that cross-pollination continued with the next generation. I had a cross.

I must admit -- I was a tad worried last summer. But not anymore. The cross produced the best of both varieties -- and resulted in the best darn pickle I have ever tasted in my life -- bar none. These are truly incredible -- and will be in high demand later this summer during the last week of Legislative Session at the State Capitol in Sacramento.

This is also known as Legislative Hell Week or "The Crush" in some circles. It's a time when lobbyists of all shapes and sizes prowl the hallways in hopes of getting a bill passed -- or even defeated in some cases. The particular Senate Office that I serve in is also the office for the Vice-Chair of the Senate Rules Committee. And it's a long-held Capitol tradition that this office is opened to lobbyists during the final week -- so they can have a place to sit down and relax for a minute -- while helping themselves to coffee, soft-drinks and assorted snacks that are provided.

Last year -- as sort of a lark -- I brought in a jar of our home-canned pickles to provide an alternative to the pre-packaged snacks of pretzels or peanuts. They sat there for a few hours -- bypassed by many -- until a transplanted Upstate New Yorker turned California lobbyist found them. After that? The pickles vanished in the space of minutes. The next day? I brought in another jar. Same result: Gone in Sixty Seconds.

I would soon come to find out that the pickles reminded this particular lobbyist of a corner deli back home. But he also assured me that mine were much better -- and his attention to those jars (here, try this!) created somewhat of a feeding frenzy. I made a promise to the many new fans of our home-canning efforts that day. If I was still in the same office next year? The pickles would return.

I supose I also owe Carri a jar or two. Perhaps she'll part with some Limoncello? Fat Chance!


Fred Hoffman said...

I'm pretty sure there is a law against feeding lobbyists.

Carri said...

I just finished a batch of Limoncello Sunday :)