in a pickle
I've realized recently that I really, really like pickled things. Maybe not pigs feet, or eggs (but to be fair, I've tried neither, so who knows, maybe I would even like them), but most vegetables are quite tasty when plunged into a vinegar-y, sweet, salty, and/or spicy bath. When a co-worker was giving away his surplus, home-grown cucumbers, I first tried my hand at some bread and butter pickles (delicious!), and then moved on to dills. The first batch, using a pre-made blend of pickling spices wasn't all that great. The second batch, using my own combination (dill seed, mustard seed, and some other things I don't remember) was much better, but I'm not quite there yet. In the meantime, I deviated from the traditional cucumbers using a couple recipes from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which I recently borrowed from the library (and which I really need to just purchase, because Oh My Goodness, the Zuni roast chicken and bread salad is so good!).
I started with the red onion pickles, which include the rather laborious process of submerging the fat, sliced rings in batches into the spicy sweet brine just until it started simmering, a total of three times. It wasn't difficult, however, and well worth the trouble, since doing it this way means the onions soak up all the wonderful flavors without cooking and becoming soggy. They have the nicest bit of crunch, yet are completely infused with cinnamon, star anise, pepper, bay and cloves. Not to mention the brilliant pink color of the finished pickles.
The weekend I made these, I served them along with a pile of pulled pork I made by cooking a pork shoulder in the crockpot until it was falling-apart tender. So good! Of course, when I searched for this recipe online, after having made it, it seems I'm a little late to the party, and others have written about them much more eloquently than I. So go here or here to read more and for the recipe, and make them soon.
Next up were the zucchini pickles. My mom used to make these with the zucchini that was growing out our ears each summer (not literally, of course, I just like that funny saying). I again followed the recipe in the Zuni cookbook, which I think is pretty close to what my mom used to make. They are a mustard-y sweet bread and butter type pickle, and so easy. You just cook the brine for a minute, let it cool, and pour it over the sliced zucchini. Mr. Heylucy, who is no fan of sweet pickles, can't seem to stop eating these. I think they're just right too. Here's the zucchini pickle recipe, courtesy of the L.A. Times.