Friday, April 29, 2016

The Gallon of Pickles

I've been eating a gallon of pickles for the entire month of April.

I didn't lose a bet or enter a competitive eating contest. This has nothing to do with Lent. I've been eating a gallon of pickles because I made them, and I made a gallon of pickles because I halved a recipe that would have made two gallons.

Let me explain.

As I mentioned before, after the Asheville Half Marathon Bernadette and I didn't want to go back to our room and lay down, because we were (probably rightly) afraid that our limbs would immediately contract and stiffen, and we might never walk again without terrible pains, like the Little Mermaid in the original version of that story. We couldn't rent bikes, because "it's not bicycle season" at the Biltmore in March (to everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn... including bicycles), so we drove to Mount Mitchell and climbed it.

Mount Mitchell 2

More correctly, we climbed about ten minutes of it. We drove the rest of the way, because we'd just completed a half marathon. Still, we made it to the top, where we faced views that were extremely similar to the ones I saw last time I climbed a mountain after a half marathon:

Mount Mitchell 1

Mount Mitchell 3

Mount Mitchell 4

Mount Mitchell 6

Breathtaking, right?

Views aside, though, we did learn that there's a mountain called Big Butt:

Big Butt

"Hey, Sir Mixalot, what's your favorite mountain?"

"Son, I like Big Butt, and I cannot lie."

We then climbed back down the mountain and returned to the hotel with the kind of appetite normally reserved for Hungry Hungry Hippos, and headed to the nearest restaurant we could walk to that might have gluten free menu options. Arriving at Cedric's Tavern, which is named after the Vanderbilts' dog:

Biltmore Estate 2

we got a table, got a drink, ordered, and prayed that food would arrive before we had to eat another patron just to survive the night.

"Hey," our server asked, "Would you guys like some pickles?"

At that particular moment in time, I might have eaten an orange if someone offered me one.

"Sure!" seemed so much more polite than "OH, GOD, PLEASE PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH."

He appeared moments later with a mason jar full of pickle spears, which Bernadette eyed dubiously.

"They smell like dill. Are they dill?"

"Let me try one."

They weren't dill.

"Are they dill?"

"They're like a cross between bread and butter and dill? Sort of sweet, but there's a hint of dill, and something else?"

"Ooooh, let me try."

Three minutes later our waiter brought us a second jar of pickle spears. Five minutes later, he brought the recipe with the third jar of pickle spears and an order of deviled eggs, which I also inhaled.

Pickle recipe

I have no memory of my dinner (possibly a sandwich?) but days later I was still thinking about those pickles, so I decided to make some.

Finding and washing pickling cucumbers was the easy part:


Sourcing juniper berries in Knoxville, on the other hand, was a nightmare. I ended up finding them in the spice section at Whole Foods, and now I can never have children, because if I did they might want to go to college someday and I can't afford to send them there since I spent their college fund on juniper berries at Whole Foods. Still, I found them, and convinced myself to buy them, and then I filled a gallon jar with cucumbers, onions, spices, and expensive juniper berries from Whole Foods:

Cucumbers (2)

And then I poured the brine over it.

The recipe said I had to wait 24 hours before eating them. It really should say 48 hours, because they've gotten better and better the longer they've sat in the refrigerator. The recipe also said that they would only keep in the refrigerator for a month, so all of April has been a race against time, and a series of dinners that look like this:

Sandwich and pickles

These pickles are so good, but there are so many of them. I keep eating them and eating them, but there are still somehow pickles left in the jar. This many pickles:

Pickle jar

Now, it's the end of the month, and I can't eat the rest of the gallon of pickles, because the recipe says not to and I don't want to die.

But they're so delicious that death by pickles might not be a horrible way to go.


Mrs. Splapthing said...

Joel, congrats on your race, and your non-view-having drive/hike up Mt. Mitchell (I've been there, just not after a race, because this girl ain't runnin' unless someone's chasing me with something sharp.)

As for the pickle you're in (ha, see what I did there?), you do know the answer, right? Next time you make a batch of pickles, keep half the batch for yourself and put the rest in small mason jars to give to your friends!

I'm normally not a picky eater, but I have a "thing" where pickles are concerned. I only like the really small, really crunchy dill pickles. Those big, soft, floppy things they serve in "slivers" make my skin crawl. For me, it's crunchy or the highway.

As for the "use by" date, I am at a loss to understand why you can't store the pickles nearly indefinitely in the brine... I mean, they used to pack raw meat in salt and sail across the ocean, right? Salt water (brine) should preserve stuff way longer than a month. I mean, I've had a jar of pickles in my refrigerator for way longer than that, and they're still fine when I eat th

Misa said...

So glad you shared this! I haven't tried these yet but my mom has raved about Cedric's pickles. Being a fellow east Tennesseean in your neck of the woods - next time, might I suggest checking World Market at Turkey Creek for juniper berries? I was there today and saw a bigger bag than Whole Foods was selling and for a much cheaper $1.99. Spices are tucked away on an aisle at the back of the store. :) Hope that helps!