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The Summer “Crunch”

 

Pickles and summer go together like cherries and ice, ice cream and sticky faces, picnics and grass stains, and sweet and tangy relish on a hot-off-the grill burger. Crisp dill-infused spears of zucchini use up the inevitable glut of the loved and loathed summer squash. Blushed tangy purple onions that kick up the juiciest of tacos. Sweet and sour cherries next to creamy cheeses spread over crackers at a grown-up picnic.
 
Notice I didn’t even mention little dimpled cucumbers? Usually when the topic of pickles comes up, dill pickles or bread and butter pickles seem the most pressing choice, but in our house pickles come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve pickled peaches, onions, cherries, strawberries, prunes, zucchini, fennel, carrots and peppers. 
 
My other standard practice in pickling is to skip the water bath. I stick to small batches and store them in the fridge. Refrigerator pickles come together quickly and are a clever way to use up the bountiful produce available this time of year.  
 
My recipe in this newsletter uses a mix of summer vegetables: zucchini, carrots and fennel. The spices and herbs can be altered to your desire. In under 20 minutes you’ll have a fridge loaded with fresh pickles. I can’t seem to wait more than a day to start enjoying them, but if you are more patient than I, then a few days bathing in the potent brine will do the vegetables well. 
 
Use these pickles as a bright summer appetizer, alongside a grilled burger or as a healthful snack. Once you’ve discovered the simplicity and delight of fridge pickles, it’s quite possible there will be little room in the refrigerator for anything else. Not a bad problem to have, I’d say.
 
MIXED VEGETABLE FRIDGE PICKLES
 
Ingredients: 
2 zucchini
2 carrots
1 fennel bulb (with fronds attached) 
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon whole coriander
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons mustard seed
½ teaspoon chili flakes
3 Tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 ¼ cup water
2 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
¼ cup sugar 
 
Directions:
Cut the zucchini into spears that fit the height of the jars you are using. Place the spears in a bowl with ice water and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon of the salt. Submerge the zucchini in the water, weighing them down with a plate. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This will keep the spears crisp when pickled.
 
Cut the carrots in the same manner as the zucchini. Slice the fennel in ¼” pieces, reserving the fennel fronds. Set vegetables aside.
In a saucepan combine the remaining ingredients, including the 2 Tablespoons salt. Bring to a simmer then turn off heat.
 
Place the cut vegetables in clean jars. Add a couple pieces of fennel frond to the jar(s).
 
Carefully pour the hot brine over the vegetables until submerged. Cover and refrigerate for at least one day. Well-sealed refrigerator pickles will keep for 1 month.
 
*NOTE: While I have never had the experience of making classic cucumber based pickles I do have discerning tastes and have garnered highly opinionated perspectives on a good pickle in which I am happy to share with you. A good pickle is well balanced with a bright vinegar bite, I like a touch of heat and nice balance of salt with a whisper of sweetness. The greatest classic pickle I ever met had all these things plus a satisfying crunch that is hard to find in a homemade pickle. The key was a grape leaf tucked into the jar. Apparently grape leaves have a substance that inhibits the enzymes that soften the pickles. The source of these enzymes is located in the blossom end of the cucumber, so you could simply remove that part and achieve the same affect.
 
Makes one quart.
Inspired by Bon Appetit, August 2011
 
by Ashley Rodriguez