Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Goes with Charcuterie? Pickles!

I left you in February with a little taste of the two-part hands-on charcuterie class I attended at Cups. We had learned the ins and outs of making chorizo and pancetta from Quality Social's Jared Van Camp and Sam Burman. Then they took our pork concoctions back to the restaurant to cure for a month. We reconvened about a month later to retrieve our work and learn how to make one of the best accompaniments to the salty unctuousness of a perfect salumi. Pickles. Specifically Bread & Butter Pickles and Natural Pickles.

Now, I grew up with a grandmother who made jars upon jars of kosher dills but she never actually showed me how to do it. I would simply arrive at her apartment to find several huge bottles sitting out in the sun. We'd take them home to finish fermenting and then would dig into the most perfectly garlicky dill sour cukes you could imagine. It's past due time to retrieve that recipe and recreate that experience.

When our group gathered again, there was a big box of produce sitting on the counter and a huge stock pot on the stove. Burman was quietly slicing samples of Quality Social's charcuterie--soppressata, finochiona, Tuscana, pepperoni, and fresh mortadella--for us to snack on.

In front of the charcuterie were three small white bowls filled with pickled cauliflower and green garlic and bread and butter pickles. We each filled a plate and sat down together as Van Camp gave us a brief background on pickling and what we'd be doing.

We started with, what else, chopping vegetables. Those four onions above needed to be sliced to add to the brine for the Bread & Butter pickles. While the brine was brought to a boil, we focused on the the Natural Pickles. Van Camp had picked up gorgeous Romanesco cauliflower, carrots, and garlic from Suzie's Farm. Unlike the stripped heads you see at the markets, these cauliflowers still were surrounded by the leaves, which we discovered were delicious--perfect for a quick saute or for making soup. (So, the next time you see these at the Suzie's Farm stall, ask the person working there if they would sell them with the leaves.) Several of us took big bunches of them home.

We chopped the veggies and following Van Camp's lead, began stuffing them into jars interspersed with the pickling spice.

Then we poured the simmered distilled water and kosher salt over the mixture and tightened the lid.

These will sit in a dark, cool spot for about two weeks to cure. Once opened, they go into the refrigerator.

Then, it was on to the Bread and Butter pickles. The chefs had already sliced and soaked the cukes overnight in a salt solution. The brine was boiled and cooled. So all that was left was for us to fill jars with the cucumber slices, pour the cooled brine over them and twist on the lids.

By the end of class we had several jars of pickles and, in lieu of diplomas, what we had been waiting for most: our hand-crafted charcuterie, all wrapped up.

Quality Social's Natural Pickle
from Jared Van Camp and Sam Burman

1.75 ounces kosher salt
1 teaspoon pickling spice
4.25 cups distilled water
8 ounces trimmed and peeled vegetables

1. Combine the salt, pickling spice and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir to dissolve the salt. Remove brine from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Place the vegetables in a clean jar that will hold them comfortably. Pour enough brine over them to keep submerged. Weight the vegetables down if necessary with some plastic wrap and a little more brine.
3. Place the jar in a cool spot for ferment for at least seven but preferably 14 days (60 to 75 degrees).
4. After seven days the vegetables should have a nice sour salty taste (not sour like vinegar).
5. To store your vegetables, strain the brine from the jar, place the vegetables in a new jar, bring brine to boil on the stove top, cool to room temperature, and pour back over your vegetables.

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