A Pickle Story
I was a Pickle Prodigy
in the making at 8 years old. Grandma Brooks curled my hair in one inch sausage curls shiny and brown and even though we had passed Vatican II
she still insisted that I wear her small silver burnished barrette. It had three amethyst
stones which I relished to imagine she wore as a young woman in her long pale red hair she piled high on her head in fancy plaits that set off ivory skin tones. It was in place of wearing the traditional veil to Mass. She spirtzed me with lavender and ha! in a haze of purple perfumey love, off we went with Grandpop to the Roman Catholic Church in Raymond. Grandpops or Brooksie as he was called by the locals was a lobsterman and carpenter who once upon a time made the mistake of dropping a live lobster into a boiling pot sending 81 year old Great Aunt Sadie screaming up the stairs going on about You're crucifying the poor thing!!
and never ate any large edible marine decapoded crustacean again. As it was my nature to be dutiful to the ways and whiles of being a tomboy I liked to hang out with the men in the family from time to time who to my beliefs were, a great treasure trove of information. Yet sometimes Pops being of direct Celtic decent and a salty sailor to boot shared with me more than his fair share of Outlandish Irish Tales, he was quite a character.
Oh, he worked tirelessly at his professions building everything from cribbage boards to roofing, to boats. One day I found him near drowned in the Tampa Bay when he visited us there. The waves had sloshed into and filled his waders tipping him under washing him neatly out to his beloved sea, he tied bright orange and blue fish flies telling me many secret stories bounded within their threads...... they buried him in his waders and laid his favorite fishing pole gently beside. He frequently stomped and clumped about on the wooden floors of their lakeside cottage with a cigar stub in the corner of his mouth with one eye scrunched almost shut; a ruddied leathered face wore bright patches of red coloring upon his cheeks and oh my when he drove well that could be the adventure to anticipate! The car was a behemoth by todays standards a manual transmission, a Studebaker (maybe?) built in the mid fifties it was metallic green with room in the back where I practiced pliés and when they lived in Portland he would leave the car parked at the curb in front of their apartment building with the keys in the ignition in case any neighbor might need to run to the grocery store. The steering wheel had a lot of play in it so when he drove his hands would move back and forth in a rather pleasant and comforting motion while he drozed along the just-past sunrise sky where a swatch of Maine countryside shimmered in the blue-gray morning haze. This drowseness was a regular part of his everyday driving habit and often as not he would wake up inthenickoftime to slam on brakes to catch me on the fly coming with in a hairs breadth of the large gleaming dashboard and it was during one of these moments of rolling and pitching and screeching a halt (never once did he miss catching me nor what was even more remarkable did I ever see him drop that cigar nor open up the perpetually squinched up eye) that I asked him , Grandpops, just how does one eat a pickle?
They had an enormous garden rimmed with rhubarb that was filled with blueberry bushes and dahlias; Grandma had been up early pickling cucumbers every morning since I had arrived:
Eh? he says to me eyebrows raised with eyes partly closed and began to create the all inherent drama of telling tales from a foreign land that I was really asking for; he pulled a stogie from his mouth and I held my breath whilst standing over his shoulder behind the front seat mesmerized by little bits of seashells see sawing back and forth, forth and back all ocean like.
oh ?? ay yah..... (yeah was always two syllables and he spoke with a mix of an Irish and northern accent though sometimes if he was really excited it was mostly Gaelic ), T'ere were the two wee ones that haunts me garden patch and tey is always up ta no good with their mischievous tricks. (I had painted several rocks gold and scattered them around the garden the day before hoping to catch me one when knowing them to be so greedy, that while he was busy trying to gather them, I could sneak up on him and catch him!)
Well I caught one in your trap tis morn and he trades me a secret to let him go: 'Brooksie if you take the first bite out of the cucumber from the viney end it always tastes sweeter! The sugar we put in stops and waits until it can be release all the way up making as sweet as it can be.' a happy pioret, the brakes uttered a shrill warning, I flew forward-- then with a toss backwards into the grand back seat that arranged with blankets into a proper throne as he ended his tale. The neighborhood kids beg me to tell and retell this tale when we dine on pickles in the summertime on my front porch. A family tradition now that has been delightfully created and while our boys eat their pickles in this fashion, Hubby being of a practical nature doesn't believe (yet) but once I did spy him taking a bite from each end to evaluate Grandpop's accounting of pickliciousness.
Pickle Facts and Trivia
Now etiquette pertaining to pickles is related to the context in which they are served. If you are having a Full-Sour Dill with the perfect steak, it should be eaten with a knife and fork. If eating a Half-Sour Dill with the best tuna fish sandwich you could ever have, by all means, pick it up and take a bite. Similarly, a prosciutto-wrapped Gherkin hors d'oeuvre is a delightful cocktail party finger food. But my absolutely favorite is from a great big jar during a sweltering damp August afternoon mmmmm pickleicious; there's nothing like an icy cold crunchy crunchy, pickle. They're flavorful and fat free! Three to one is the length-to-diameter ratio for perfect cucumber for pickling. Grandma kept them in her storage cellar under the house because pickles and relishes aren't as prone to spoilage as others due to their acidity,
More than half the cucumbers grown in the United States are made into pickles. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that the average American eats eight-and-a-half pounds of pickles a years. Dill pickles are twice as popular as sweet. and 26 billion pickles are packed each year in the U.S. That’s about nine pounds of pickles per person.
Did you know that the pioneers ate a lot of pickles on the Oregon Trail? Although the pioneers didn't know the scientific reason for it, the they knew that eating fresh fruits and vegetables would keep them safe from the deficiency disease, scurvy. Because fresh fruits and vegetables were hard to come by over much of the trail, pioneers would bring a lot of pickles along, which also were an excellent source of Vitamin C. I searched the web for trivia and pickle tales and here are a list of what I found:
- Dating back 4,500 years to Mesopotamia it is believed cucumbers were first preserve
- In 2,030 B.C., cucumbers native to India were brought to the Tigris Valley. There, they were first preserved and eaten as pickles.
- In 850 B.C., Aristotle praised the healing effects of cured cucumbers.(sic)
- Cucumbers are mentioned at least twice in the Bible "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic," Numbers 11:5 and Isaiah 1:8. History records their usage over 3,000 years ago in Western Asia, ancient Egypt and Greece.
- Pickling has been used to preserve food for almost 5,000 years and Cleopatra was a devotee of the pickle thinking it enhanced her beauty..... though I'm not sure which portion.
- Pliny's writings mention spiced and preserved cucumbers; in other words, pickles
- The Roman Emperor Tiberius consumed pickles on a daily basis.
- Julius Caesar thought pickles had an invigorating effect, so, naturally, he shared them with his legions.
- The enjoyment of pickles spread far and wide through Europe. In the thirteenth century, pickles were served as a main dish at the famous Feast of King John.
- The pickle got its name in the 1300s when English-speaking people mispronounced William BeukelzWilliam Beukelz’] name. Beukelz was a Dutch fisherman known for pickling fish.
- Amerigo Vespucci, for whom America is named, was was actually a pickle peddler in Seville, Spain before becoming an explorer.. He supplied ships with pickled vegetables to prevent sailors from getting scurvy on long voyages. While Columbus is credited with discovering America, Vespucci was apparently a better PR man. We're named for him. We became the United States of America , instead of the United States of Vespucci. And that's probably a good thing, too.
- Pickles were brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus, who is known to have grown them on the island of Haiti.
- Samuel Pepy's diary mentions a glass of Girkins as something to be highly appreciated.
- In the sixteenth century, Dutch fine food fanciers cultivated pickles as one of their prized delicacies.
- Cartier found cucumbers growing in Canada in 1535, and they were known to the colonists of Virginia as early as 1609.
- In 1659, Dutch farmers in New York grew cucumbers in what is now Brooklyn. These cukes were sold to dealers who cured them in barrels and sold them from market stalls on Washington, Canal and Fulton Streets. As it turns out, these pickle purveyors started the nation's commercial pickle industry.
- Queen Elizabeth liked pickles. And Napoleon valued pickles as a health asset for his armies.
- The phrase "in a pickle" was coined by none other than William Shakespeare himself. He writes, in The Tempest, "How cam'st thou in this pickle?" and "I have been in such a pickle…." This translates into old southern slang to I'm in a dilly of a pickle I wonder what William would think.
- Legend of the Christmas Pickle
There is a German tradition of hiding a glass pickle in the tree on Christmas Eve. Whoever finds the pickle first would get a special gift (I would change this to opening the first gift with very young children who might not understand). But the idea of pickles and Christmas goes back even further. A folktale suggests that during medieval times a horrible innkeeper stuffed two children into a pickle barrel and St. Nicholas just happened to pass by the inn later that day and heard of the children's predicament. So, he tapped the barrel with his staff and freed the children who hurried home for Christmas dinner.
- George Washington was a pickle enthusiast. So were John Adams and Dolly Madison. Pickles inspired Thomas Jefferson to write the following:
"On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally's cellar."
I'm still trying to track down Aunt Sally's recipe.
- In colonial America, the pickle patch was an important adjunct to good living. Pickles were highly regarded by all of America's pioneering generations because, under frontier conditions, pickles were the only zesty, juicy, green, succulent food available for many months of the year.
- In colonial times, and, much later, on farms and in villages, homemakers expected to "put down" some pickles in stone crocks, and to "put up" some pickles and pickle relishes in glass jars.
- In 1820, Frenchman Nicholas Appert was the first person to commercially pack pickles in jars.
- According to Pickle Packers International Inc., the perfect pickle should exhibit seven warts per square inch for North American tastes - Europeans prefer wartless pickles.
- Fourty percent percent of all pickles produced in the U.S. during WWII were earmarked for the Armed Forces. Troops led by Julius Caesar and Napoleon relished their pickles too. In China and other parts of Asia carrots are often used to make pickles and relishes.
- May is International Pickle Month.
- The 57 on the Heinz ketchup bottle represents the number of varieties of pickles the company once had.H.J. Heinz introduced the pickle pin at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 It's considered by some to be one of the most effective promotional items in the history of retailing, often referred to as the P.T. Barnum of pickles. He erected a 40 foot high electric pickle in the heart of mid-town Manhattan and a 90 foot pickle at the end of a 900 foot pier in Atlantic City. It was even rumored that he planned to carve a giant pickle into the side of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga Tennessee.
- John Lennon's first girlfriend was named Thelma Pickles.
- Paces at which the crunch of a pickle should be audible, according to Pickle Packers International : 10
- If electrodes are inserted at opposite ends of a pickle, and electricity is passed through, the pickle will glow.Isn't science amazing ?!!
- Capsaicin is the ingredient in hot pickled peppers that makes you sweat and your nose run !
Alum is the spice used to put the "bite" in pickles
and when adding garlic to pickle brine the pickle lingo is kosher.....kosher dills are the ultimate accompaniment to Italian Sandwiches. And by the way Kosher pickles are Kosher because they are prepared in the presence of a Rabbi.
A Pickle is Born
Pickles begin life as cucumber seeds, of which there are some 17,000 to the pound. A pound of seed, plus water, fertilizer, sun, and an acre of soil, will yield up to several hundred bushels of cucumbers. The rule of thumb is the hotter the climate, the faster the cucumbers grow, about six weeks. The green cucumbers placed in the brining tanks undergo a lactic acid fermentation which uses up the natural sugar
(ah ha! Grandpops was right!!) in the cucumbers. The fermentation of the green cucumber takes place in a seven percent salt solution After they are cured the cucumbers in the brine tank are then soaked in fresh water where most of the salt is removed.
There are fifteen different kinds of pickled pepper possibilities
and technically speaking pickles are a fruit according to the U.S. Supreme Court
, but they are generally known as a vegetable. There are more than 36 varieties of pickles from which to choose and hundreds of varieties within the 36. Here are the most popular types of pickles:
Dill: The most popular variety of cucumber pickle. The herb dill or dill oil is added to impart a distinctive and refreshing flavor. Dill pickles are available in many forms - chips, spears, halves or whole. There are three basic types of dill pickles:
Genuine Dills - Made by the slow "processed" method. Dill weed is added to the tanks during the final stage of fermentation or to the jar after fermentation. These pickles usually have a higher lactic acid flavor than other varieties. A more robust type of dill pickle is the kosher dill..
Sour/Half Sour These are usually refrigerated pickles. Cucumbers are first cured in brine and finished in a solution of vinegar and spices. The longer the cucumbers remain in the brine, the more sour they become. Half-sour pickles are extra crispy and keep their fresh cucumber color.
Fresh Pack Dills - Fresh cucumbers are packed in jars with the dill spice and packed as soon after picking as possible so that the original quality can be maintained.
Refrigerated Dills - These pickles are placed in brine for a very short time - a day or two at the most. These pickles taste very much like fresh cucumbers accented with dill flavor. They are the type of pickle you would find at a delicatessen.
Sweet Sweet pickles are packed in a sweet mixture of vinegar, sugar and spices. Here are some of the variations on sweet pickles:
Bread & Butter - One of my favs when I can find the right brand here. The best ones I've found have awalys been from back east. They are sweet, sliced pickles that have a distinct, slightly tangy taste. Available in either smooth- or waffle-cut chips or chunks.
Candied - Pickles packed in an extra-heavily sweetened liquid.
No-Salt Sweet - A relatively new variety of sweet pickle to which no salt has been added. Usually available as chips, these appeal to consumers who need to restrict their salt intake.
Sweet/Hot - This flavor represents another growing trend, that of adding hot spices and seasonings to pickles for a delightful spark of piquant flavor.
Pickled Peppers Made the same way as cucumber pickles, there are more than 15 varieties of pickled peppers available, ranging from mild to hot, hot, hot! These are some of the most popular pickled peppers:
Jalapeño - Thanks to the growing interest in Mexican food, this type of pickled pepper is hot - literally. Fiery jalapeños are packed in brine and come whole or in rings.
Banana Peppers - Long, shiny, yellow, orange or red peppers that come both sweet and hot. Pickled banana peppers, available whole or in rings, are popular breaded, deep-fried and served as appetizers in many restaurants.
Cherry Peppers - Shaped like a cherry, these pickled peppers are red or green in color and available in both sweet and hot versions. They are most popular whole or in rings.
Pepperoncini - Pickled, whole, green, Greek or Italian peppers that are usually 2 to 3 inches long. These mildly hot peppers are popular in antipasto offerings and Mediterranean-style salads.
Food Facts & Trivia: Pickle Lovers
Accessed Nov 08 2001.
Accessed Nov 08 2001.
Accessed Nov 08 2001.
What is Kosher Food?:
Accessed Jan 18, 2006.