[Hey, this is Adam The Amateur Gourmet. I'm on vacation in Barcelona, Spain and while I'm gone I've asked some awesome people to fill in for me. Today we continue talented female filmmaker day with another talented female filmmaker, Ms. Dara Bratt. (Check out her film, "In Vivid Detail.") Dara isn't just a talented filmmaker, she's also an excellent cook--see here--but this post, I have to confess, has me a little worried. Take it away, Dara!]
What I’m about to share may shock you, some will be repulsed, others curious or even amused. Nothing beats a hot summer day like frozen pickle juice.
Ever since Adam asked me to contribute to his blog while he was away, I began agonizing over what I would write about. I hummed and hawed – should I review a restaurant, cook a meal? And then I heard my mom’s recent advice in my head: “it’s never too late to follow your dreams”.
Although I love desserts, I also love salty sour foods. If I’m not drinking wine, then it will be a dirty martini in hand, or a bloody mary, or the yummy bloody casear (only available in Canada and made with clam juice.) I’m no cosmo girl and you’ll never see me with a manhattan. So it’s not that surprising that when I was ten, along with the help from mom, I decided to take pickle juice straight from the jar, and make popsicles. I named my creation: “Pickle Spiced Ice.” Yes, pickle popsicles. And they were good. And today, over 20 years later, I’ve decided to do it again and see if they still hold up over time.
Now I grew up with pickles. No family holiday dinner was complete without them. My great uncle Max made his own batch in his backyard. I lived in the neighborhood where the owners of Mrs Whites pickles would give them out on Halloween in single serving sealed containers. The line for that house would get so long that they implemented a rule of one jar per tricker-treater. (Some of us would change costumes and go back for seconds). I’m not going to lie, if you don’t like pickles, this may not be your cup of tea.
For this adventure, I enlisted my good friend Laura. First, we needed to find the best pickles. Normally, I maintain loyalty to Gus’ Pickles, established in 1910 in the Lower East Side. But not wanting to leave my neighborhood, I decided to try the farmer’s market on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope.
Tip 1: Pickles on store shelves are vacuum packed to last five years. They often contain sugar and other preservatives to keep them fresh. The best pickles are the ones out of the barrel (fermented in brine) that will last about 6wks in the fridge. 2: The small Kirby is the best cucumber for pickling. The bigger the cucumber, the bigger the seeds, which can lead to an overripe mushy end product.
Next we went to my favorite neighborhood wine store to find the perfect pairing. What’s the point of a food adventure without some wine? My request was met with a long pause of silence, the sales man eventually recommended Gruner, “a wine that goes with weird food, like asparagus.”
Back in the kitchen, we poured the brine from half sours and full sours into the molds. We squeezed some juice out of the pickles and then we added Perrier to a select few for variation. In addition to the popsicle molds, I filled an ice-cube tray with the mixture, then covered it with saran wrap so that the toothpicks could stay standing as I pierced through the plastic.
And then we waited.
Did you know that a pickle has more vitamin C than an orange?
Pickle juice is an Easter European favorite for the morning after a hard night of hitting the bottle?
Shakespeare was the first to use it in a sentence: “How cam’st thou in this pickle?” and “I have been in such a pickle”?
3 hours later and still slushy pickles force me to call it a night.
I reconvened the next evening with my friend Kim, the willing taster. To accompany the popsicles, I prepared an arrangement of foods I thought would be well matched: homemade gazpacho (red and yellow tomatoes, celery, red pepper, jalapeno, cucumber, red onion, lime juice, olive oil, sherry wine vinegar, Worchester sauce, hot sauce, cilantro, s&p), egg salad (cage free eggs, dill, celery, red and green onion, Dijon mustard, olive oil, cayenne and paprika, s&p), open-faced tuna melts (pole caught tuna with celery, apple, red onion, capers, chopped pickles, dill, Dijon mustard and olive oil on toasted rye with melted goat gruyere cheese and a sliced pineapple on top - hey don’t knock it till you tried it – the sweet pineapple complements the acidic pickle taste perfectly), smoked trout and sweet roasted peppers.
I was nervous about ruining my childhood memories- indeed some memories are meant to be left alone. The verdict? Kim’s first taste caused severe facial contortion. “Shocking,” she said. But a few more tries and she was hooked.
We both agreed that the full sours were more flavorful than the half-sours that just tasted salty. Letting one melt into the gazpacho was delicious. The mineral light wine was a perfect match although we started daydreaming of martinis with pickle popsicles instead of olives. The light bites were a match in heaven. By the end of the night and four popsicles later, Kim concluded that it was “a genius concoction!” Yay for pickle spiced ice!!
The bottom line is that this recipe may not be winning any James Beard awards, and it won’t please all taste buds out there, but it does please mine, and at the very least – it will cure your hangover.
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More Amateur Gourmet:
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- The Food Section