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I don’t love pickles. Every once in a time, when I am in a real Jewish deli, like Crown in West Hartford, I will buy pastrami, corned beef, some chopped liver, and one or two half-sour pickles. I like those dills. And if I get a ball park hotdog, I will add mustard and relish, but not too much of the latter.
I think I don’t love anything very sour. This doesn’t stop me from using vinegar and, of course, making my own vinaigrette for salad. However, I will use maybe 1 part vinegar to 5 parts oil, instead of the regular 1 to 3 vinegar to oil, and I am fairly fussy about what vinegar. (These days I like champagne vinegar or sherry vinegar, instead of wine vinegar.)
But, back to pickles. Some years ago I was at Gloria Pépin’s house in Madison and she offered me some pickles she had just made. I hope she didn’t see what my husband used to say was “my face,” and I said I would love to. They were way beyond delicious. She probably sent me home with a jar and the recipe, but I lost the recipe. So when another friend tried to buy pickle relish that wasn’t filled with chemicals, I told her about that recipe and suggested she make it herself.
Gloria was kind enough to send me a new recipe, which she copied written in the hand of Dorothy Cann Hamilton, who founded the French Culinary Institute in New York City and San Francisco. I now have it in my computer file forever. I will put the handwritten recipe in my jewelry box.
Lee White of Old Lyme has been a food editor and restaurant reviewer for more than 25 years. You can email her at email@example.com.
Bread and Butter Pickles
Adapted by Gloria Pépin from Dorothy Cann Hamilton’s recipe
1 gallon cucumbers (28 to 30 medium), not waxed
(you can also use long English cukes)
8 small- to medium white onions
2 green peppers, shredded
½ cup coarse salt (kosher-type)
Select crisp, fresh cucumbers. Wash but do not pare them. Slice crosswise in paper thin slices. A small plastic mandoline will do nicely, but watch your fingers. Slice the onions thin. Mix salt with the three vegetables and bury pieces of cracked ice (1 quart) in the mixture.
Cover with a weighted lid and let stand for about 3 hours, then drain very thoroughly. Meanwhile, make the syrup of:
5 cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seed
5 cups liquid (2 ½ cups water, 2 ½ cups not-too-strong vinegar)
Mix sugar, turmeric, and cloves together. Add mustard and celery seed and vinega and water and pour over the pickles. Place over low heat and stir, occasionally, using a wooden spoon. Heat the mixture to scalding, but do not boil.
Pour into hot, sterilized jars. Allow to cool, then put the lids on. I refrigerate the pickles, which will last, I am sure, for at least one month.
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