Friday, August 16, 2013

Garlic Dill Pickles--the Old-Fashioned Way!

You're right, this IS an old painting done years ago when I pickled with vinegar!  My computer with all my images is in the shop...
I've been experimenting with pickling and brining and fermenting, as mentioned in this post, and last week our good buddy R.E.--he of the gorgeous organic garden--brought us 6 gigantic cucumbers of a new variety that gets huge but not bitter or tough.

Faced with THAT much bounty, all we could do was pickle!  I made a fresh cucumber, onion, and tomato salad in apple cider vinegar and Joseph made his famous sweet relish the usual way with sugar, vinegar, spices and all, but I couldn't resist brining some garlic dills to see how they turned out...and did they ever!

I love the idea of brining or fermenting need for steamy hot kitchens that way, and I love the free probiotics!  So I checked in all my books and ended up using the basics from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods.

First, I got out my basic brine I keep on hand for those delicious krauts--


6 T. fine grain sea salt (or 9 of coarse grain)
8 C. water

Combine and stir still dissolved.  Tough, isn't it?  Some recipes call for heating the water and then letting it cool, but that seems a bit...silly.  If you know of a pressing reason for doing it that way, let me know!



This is a bit loose for an actual recipe, since it depends on how many pickles you have. 

These cucumbers were WAY too big to use'd practically need a 55 gallon drum!  So I sliced some into rounds and cut some into spears long enough to fit into a wide mouth pint jar, leaving an inch of headroom. I figured on filling 5 wide-mouth pint jars, so I just kept slicing till I had enough.

Some people suggest submerging the pickles in ice cold water for half an hour, unless they're fresh-picked.  I skipped that step...

I'd previously pickled some garlic, so I put 2 cloves into each jar and a couple of sprigs of fresh dill.  If you want, you can use 1 tsp. of dill seed instead.

SO.  Pack your pickles, garlic cloves, dill, etc. into the jars, cover with brine, leaving about an inch of headroom, and weigh  the vegetables down so they stay below the level of the brine.  You can use a smaller jar lid, a very clean round stone, or commercial fermenting weights, but do keep checking every day to make sure the vegetables are well covered.

Cover with a lid and let nature take its course--3-7 days depending on your weather (things ferment faster in warmer weather.) I "burped" mine by removing the lid once a day and to check their progress.  Then transfer to the fridge and enjoy!

* NOTE: To keep my pickles crisp, I put one clean oak leaf in the bottom of each jar!  Yep, you can use oak, grape, raspberry, or even black tea--it's the tannin that does the job.

** NOTE #2:  Sometimes home-brined veggies can develop a thin, whitish skim on top of the brine...that's kahm yeast and it doesn't hurt a thing (unless you're allergic to yeast.)  Skim it off before storing, though, because eventually it can affect the flavor.  If the brine gets slimy or ropy, toss it--but that's unlikely!

We had ours with Joseph's delicious organic-beef burgers last night...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Garlic Gorgonzola Dressing

This recipe is my best attempt at “reverse engineering” a recipe used by a Virginia restaurateur who I knew only as Ben.  He used to run Ben & Mary’s Steak House in Warrenton, VA. He sold that place and bought Dean’s Steak House in Front Royal, VA.  Based on recent reviews of Dean’s I gather he’s either retired, passed away, or otherwise moved on from there as well since it sounds like it’s gone downhill.  He had an interesting innovation in that he did not add the cheese directly to the dressing.  Instead, he’d pour what was essentially a garlic dressing over the salad and added crumbled Gorgonzola on top of that: a nice presentation, as they say in the chef biz.

I once asked him for his recipe – I promised that I would never share it – but  he very politely refused. Fine, Ben: if you won’t share yours, I’m happy to share mine

¾ C mayonnaise
½ C sour cream
2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, pressed
1 T parsley
1 T apple cider vinegar
½ T lemon juice
¼ t sea salt
4 or 5 oz package Gorgonzola crumbles

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly with a whisk except the cheese.  Gently fold in the cheese and store in the fridge for at least an hour before using. It tends to get thicker the longer it's kept, and it becomes the consistency of a dip after a day or so. If you prefer it pourable, it can be thinned with buttermilk.

I prefer Gorgonzola over regular bleu cheese (which I find rather harsh), but only because it’s available locally and is a bit less expensive. The absolute best bleu cheese for salad dressing is Roquefort. That requires a trip into KC and costs about $25-30/lb but it is absolutely exquisite. For some reason, unlike the Gorgonzola, when used in this recipe it tends to get thinner the longer its kept rather than thicker.

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