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PICKLE THIS ALMOST ANYTHING GOES, AND IT'S EASIER THAN YOU'D IMAGINE.

Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

Oh, those beloved pickles. Just thinking about them can make your mouth water. They bring back fond flavor memories of fabulous crunchy homemade creations seasoned to perfection.

As much as you may crave that dilly crunch, most home cooks never learned or wanted to be bothered with the jars, steam baths and the pickling process.

Now pickles are found in jars on grocery store shelves, but they lack that homemade taste.

A new book, ``Quick Pickles: Easy Recipes With Big Flavor,'' by Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby and Dan George (Chronicle Books; $18.95), helps cooks who are pressed for time turn out pickles in a jiffy without the traditional hassles and fear.

``A pickle is not just a cucumber,'' says Schlesinger. There are lots of other possibilities like pickled peaches, pickled corn, pickled mangoes, pickled green tomatoes, pickled cabbage and much more.

Many of the book's recipes go from garden or produce stand to pickle perfection in just a couple of hours. Once finished, they're designed to be stored refrigerated, in covered containers, for a few weeks or months until eaten.

You may be amazed that these quick pickles have the flavor, tang and snap of old-fashioned pickles without the labor. And they pack plenty of freshness. Geared to a wide range of cooks, from novices to experts, the goal of the book is to bring back the idea of home pickling.

Pickles are not new to Schlesinger. He has been welcoming diners to his Cambridge, Mass., restaurant with a pickle selection of the day. He also serves a variety of pickles as accompaniments to various grilled menu items.

An excellent amateur cook with a love of food, George was hankering to scale down his law practice and do something different. He asked Schlesinger for a job and went to work for him as a pickle chef when he opened a new restaurant in Westport, Mass., two years ago. George was given a corner of the restaurant kitchen to crank out quick pickles for diners.

``I was a pickle rookie when I started,'' admits George, who also has a catering business (Smoke and Pickles) on the side. ``I got into pickles because I wanted to cook. I wanted an alternative to lawyering - and cooking was my passion,'' says George, who grew up in a Lebanese family where life revolved around food.

``Dan's intense enthusiasm for pickles is both contagious and inspiring,'' says Schlesinger, noting that they served their book agent a pickle buffet to showcase their ideas and convince her of the validity of the concept.

``We wanted to present pickles (preserved vegetables or fruits) as a quick, easy way to deliver lots of flavor and remove the whole canning process from pickles. Many perceive pickle making as super laborious and in conflict with the modern age,'' says Schlesinger. ``The whole canning thing is mysterious to a lot of people.''

The book was a team effort, with recipes being brainstormed and developed by the trio of authors over a year and a half.

``Chris and John had already written a cookbook about condiments throughout the world and were excited about the flavor offerings,'' says George. ``They brought much of the expertise to the project.''

The authors looked at international pickle tradition for inspiration - and the offerings in the book span the globe.

In addition to chapters devoted to the three pickle styles mentioned in the accompanying story, a hodgepodge of items like Purple Pickled Eggs, Quick Pickled Garlic, Pickled Horseradish and Pickled Grape Leaves, which don't fit neatly into other categories, can be found under ``Pantry Pickles.'' They are foods you might want to have in your pantry to enhance other dishes.

Since the book has come out, George has come up with new pickle creations - including one he developed while staying recently in Latin America. It combines rum, carrots, ginger and white vinegar.

George and Schlesinger encourage cooks to use fresh seasonal produce and to experiment and substitute different fruits and vegetables in recipes.

Not only are pickles unique and intriguing, they are versatile as snacks and go-alongs. Schlesinger suggests mango pickles with roasts, zucchini pickles with fish, chipotle corn circles with pork chops, bourbon peaches with duck, oil preserved roasted peppers with lamb, and bread and butter pickles chopped up to make a terrific homemade relish for burgers or hot dogs.

Give some of the following recipes from ``Quick Pickles'' a try.

FAMOUS BACK EDDY HOUSE PICKLES

These pickles always disappear fast. But no need to worry: this is a supremely adaptable and generous pickle. You can add more vegetables to the container as the supply dwindles, using the same ones as the original batch or adding different ones. You can also freshen and expand the syrup as needed. To do so, simply combine vinegar and brown sugar in the same proportions as the recipe, bring them to a boil, add spices in the same proportions, and simmer for five minutes. When the syrup is cool, add it to the container.

These pickles are fantastic as low-fat, high-flavor, crunch-imbued appetizers, so serve your guests a plate of them instead of the standard cheese and crackers.

2 pounds pickling cucumbers (less than 5 inches long)

3 tablespoons kosher OR other coarse salt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

5 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch slices

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

4 cups cider vinegar

2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon ground cloves

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

2 tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons whole allspice berries, cracked

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and cracked

Trim and discard blossom ends of cucumbers, then cut cucumbers into rounds about 1/4- to 3/8-inch thick.

In a medium nonreactive bowl, combine cucumbers and salt and toss to coat. Cover with ice cubes or crushed ice and let stand in refrigerator 1 to 2 hours.

Drain cucumbers, rinse well, then drain again. In a medium saute pan, combine oil, garlic, carrots, bell peppers and onions and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent browning, until carrots ``sweat'' and soften a bit, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and combine with cucumbers.

In a nonreactive pan, combine vinegar, brown sugar and all spices. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Continue to boil 5 minutes to flavor syrup with spices. Pour boiling syrup over vegetables, allow to cool to room temperature, and then cover and refrigerate. This pickle will keep, covered and refrigerated, 1 month. Makes about 12 cups.

MANGO PICKLE WITH SCORCHED MUSTARD SEEDS

This oil pickle is typical of India and those regions of Southern Africa and Southeast Asia where Indian culinary influences are strong. The oil serves both as a preservative and as a medium for distributing flavor.

Turn off your smoke alarm and really scorch those mustard seeds - that is what gives this pickle its wonderfully unique flavor. This recipe also works well with other slightly firm fruits such as peaches, nectarines, pineapple or cantaloupe. This pickle is excellent as a snack, with cheese as an appetizer, or with just about any grilled or roasted meat.f=C Helvetica Condensed w=9 l=113 firm, unripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and cut into wedges 1/4-to 1/2-inch thick

Juice and grated peel of 2 limes

1/2 cup peeled, grated fresh ginger (this is the amount the authors use; adjust to taste as desired)

3 tablespoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons grainy mustard

1 OR 2 jalapenos OR other small chiles of your choice, cut into thin slices

2 teaspoons kosher OR other coarse salt

Dah OR two of your favorite hot pepper relish OR hot sauce

Freshly crackled black pepper

3 tablespoons black mustard seeds

1/2 cup canola OR sunflower oil

In a medium nonreactive bowl, combine mangoes with lime juice and mix well. Set aside 1 hour, tossing occasionally to coat.

Drain mangoes and add lime peel, ginger, garlic, mustard, jalapenos, salt, hot pepper relish and black pepper to taste, mixing well.

In a dry saute pan over medium-high heat, cook mustard seeds, shaking pan frequently, until seeds begin to crackle and jump and color of seeds fades to an ashen gray, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Add oil to pan and cook another minute. Remove from heat, pour over mangoes and mix well. Mango pickles are ready to eat immediately, but flavors will deepen and mellow significantly after a few weeks. Store, covered, in refrigerator 3 to 4 months. Makes 4 to 6 cups.

SWEET AND HOT CURRIED ZUCCHINI PICKLE

3 pounds zucchini, ends trimmed, cut into very thin rounds about 1/8-inch thick

2 red onions, about the size of baseballs, peeled and cut into thin slices

3 to 4 colorful chiles of your choice, cut into thin rounds

1/4 cup kosher OR other coarse salt

1 cup seedless red AND/OR green grapes, halved (OR substitute golden raisins)

2 3/4 cups distilled white vinegar

3/4 cup sherry

1 1/2 cups orange juice

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons prepared curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon whole allspice berries

1 teaspoon whole cloves

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

Piece of fresh ginger size of your thumb, peeled and cut into thin disks

In a large nonreactive bowl, combine zucchini, onions, chiles and salt; let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse twice to remove salt, then add grapes and set aside.

In a medium nonreactive saucepan, bring all remaining ingredients except ginger to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 3 minutes, stirring once or twice to dissolve sugar. Pour hot liquid over squash mixture; squash should be amply covered or slightly afloat. Place ginger slices inside a fold of plastic wrap and crush with a mallet or other blunt instrument. Add to squash mixture, allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.

These pickles develop great flavor after a couple of hours of refrigeration and will keep well, covered and refrigerated, 3 to 4 weeks. Makes 8 cups.

SMOKY PICKLED CORN CIRCLES WITH CORIANDER SEEDS

Cilantro berries can be found on cilantro plants that are going to seed. They are small green berries with a taste that is quite different from their dried counterpart, known as coriander seeds. If you don't have any mature cilantro plants around, cracked coriander seeds are a fine substitute.

Set these rounds out as an appetizer with corn bread or as part of an antipasto, or serve them next to grilled pork or as a garnish with sandwiches. When all the cobs are gone, save the liquid to use in a salad dressing, as a fish marinade or even as a poaching liquid for dark-fleshed fish.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1/2 pound red, orange and yellow bell peppers, cut into thin rings and seeded

2 large onions, peeled and cut into thin rings

6 tomatillos, papery skins removed, halved (OR substitute small green tomatoes, quartered)

4 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard mixed with 2 teaspoons water

4 cups white wine vinegar

1 cup pineapple juice

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons kosher OR other coarse salt

2 to 3 tablespoons cilantro berries, crushed (OR substitute coriander seeds)

1 tablespoon whole cloves

4 to 6 dried chipotle peppers (OR substitute 3 to 5 fresh chiles of your choice)

6 ears corn, husked, silked and cut into rounds about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add garlic, bell peppers, onions and tomatillos; reduce heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables ``sweat'' and are slightly softened and peppers have brightened in color, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or brown; they should be crisp-tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a nonreactive pot, combine all remaining ingredients except corn and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add corn rounds; there should be just enough liquid to cover them. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 5 minutes. Add reserved vegetables and bring back to a simmer. Turn off heat and allow to cool to room temperature, uncovered.

Cover and refrigerate. The pickled corn rounds start tasting good by the time they've cooled and will last 2 weeks, covered and refrigerated. These are best served chilled. Makes about 4 quarts.

HALF-SOURS, STRAIGHT UP

Here is your chance to have a real honest pickle barrel in your home. These fermented pickles are made without dill so you can taste the mellow flavor of the brine. This is the only real rival to the bread-and-butter pickle for an all-purpose condiment, good with just about anything you can think of.

8 cloves garlic, peeled and gently crushed

2 quarts pickling cucumbers, 3 to 5 inches long, blossom ends removed

2 small, leafy celery hearts

2 to 4 small hot fresh chiles of your choice, pricked with a fork (optional)

8 teaspoons kosher OR other coarse salt

6 cups water

In a large nonreactive wide-mouth jar, crock or pail, arrange garlic, cucumbers, celery and chiles. Combine salt and water, stir briefly to dissolve salt and pour into jar. Place a large plate over cucumbers and weigh it down with a clean stone or other nonreactive weight; the salt solution should cover cucumbers by about 2 inches. Cover plate with a clean cloth and store at room temperature 4 or 5 days, taking care to keep contents submerged at all times and skimming any foam that may form on surface of brine each day. Look for fermentation bubbles slowly rising to the surface after 2 or 3 days.

When bubble action seems to have stopped and cucumbers have turned pale green inside and out (4 to 6 days), give them a try; they should have a sharp crunch and rich, deep pickle flavor. Immediately cover container and refrigerate. These pickles should retain their good crunch and flavor 3 to 5 weeks, covered and refrigerated. Makes about 8 cups.

BALSAMIC-PICKLED PEACHES

Peaches and balsamic vinegar are an especially wonderful combination. If you want your pickles to have a lighter, more peachy color, you can substitute white balsamic vinegar and dry vermouth. Serve these luscious pickles alongside any meat, particularly roast pork or lamb.

1 cup balsamic vinegar (use white balsamic, if desired)

3/4 cup sweet vermouth (OR use dry vermouth)

1 cup pineapple juice

8 small peaches, pitted and cut into 6 to 8 wedges EACH

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine balsamic vinegar, vermouth and pineapple juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Add peaches and immediately remove pan from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature, uncovered, then cover and refrigerate.

These pickles will develop a very nice flavor within an hour or two of cooling, but they are better if left for 48 hours before eating. They will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 6 weeks. Makes about 4 cups.

EL SALVADORAN PINEAPPLE-PICKLED CABBAGE

1 small head green cabbage, cored and cut into very thin slices

1 small red onion, peeled, halved and cut into very thin slices

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into very thin circles

1 cup diced fresh pineapple

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

3/4 cup distilled white vinegar

1/4 cup pineapple juice

2 to 4 jalapenos OR other fresh chiles of your choice, cut into thin slices

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

In a large nonreactive bowl, combine all ingredients and toss to mix well. Allow mixture to stand, covered and refrigerated, for about 12 hours, stirring occasionally. This pickle will keep, covered and refrigerated, about 1 week. This pickle is good with grilled pork chops or roasted chicken and a pile of fresh tortillas. Makes about 5 cups.

Packing a peck of pickles

Food Editor There are three types of pickles - fresh, fermented and oil- preserved.

``Quick Pickles'' homes in mostly on quick and easy fresh pickles, but a handful of fermented pickle recipes are also included, even though they involve a bit more time and attention. You'll also find ideas in the book for exotic flavored oil pickles, popular in parts of Asia and Italy. The oil prolongs the shelf life.

``Making fresh pickles involves little more than making lemonade,'' notes pickle chef and author Dan George.

In the case of fresh pickles, an acidified syrup is either boiled separately or left cold (as in the case of delicate fruits) and then poured over the fruits or vegetables.

``If the syrup is hot, in many cases the pickles are ready to eat by the time the mixture cools. The fruits and vegetables are not cooked in the syrup as heat softens them,'' points out George.

``Salt figures in fresh pickles only when you want the vegetable or fruit to remain crunchy - or it is required for flavor - it is not essential for preserving.''

Be sure to store fresh pickles, covered, in ceramic bowls, glass jars or plastic containers in the refrigerator.

Fresh pickles rely on vinegar and fermented pickles rely on salt, says George. ``But both fresh pickles and fermented pickles rely on acid for their vibrant taste and preserving power.

``In the case of fresh pickles, the acid is simply poured on, most often in the form of vinegar or citrus - whereas fermented pickles need to make their own acid over time through the fermentation process,'' explains George.

Fermented pickles, the aristocrats of the pickle world, although not difficult to make, require more time and attention and take longer to complete. Recipes in the book like Half-Sours, Straight Up; Kick-Ass Westport River Barrel Cukes; and Cabbage Kimchee fit into this category. ``Just because pickles are fermented doesn't mean they have to be canned,'' says George.

The fermented pickle technique is easy - and not a big deal. Simply place the pickles in a nonreactive container, pour in the brine (salt, water and flavorings) and make sure everything is immersed. Cover the container with a clean cloth and let it rest at room temperature four to seven days.

The fermentation rate is determined primarily by the saltiness of the brine and the temperature of the room (60 degrees F is ideal), writes restaurateur and author Chris Schlesinger. By the fourth day, enough bubbles should be coming to the surface to form a kind of foam. Skim off the foam with a spoon and discard, continuing daily from this point on. Fermentation usually stops after five to six days - recognizable when bubbles stop rising to the surface. Then it's time to stash them in the fridge where they will keep three to four weeks, notes George.

``If you open your pickle container and find that your pickles have turned slippery and mushy, toss them out,'' cautions Schlesinger. ``This means that undesirable microbes have somehow grown and you definitely don't want to be eating them.''

Oil pickles, unfamiliar to many Americans, use oil infused with various flavorings as the preservative. When first developing oil pickle recipes, George and Schlessinger noticed that the pickles lacked bold flavors because the oil tends to seal the surface of fruits and vegetables, keeping the flavor from penetrating. They experimented with adding acid to the oil, but that had little effect either. Finally, they discovered that marinating the fruits and vegetables in a little vinegar or citrus juice before adding the pickling oil seemed to do the trick, yielding much more flavor. In some cases, for additional flavor, they also grill the vegetables before pickling.

Oil pickles, which typically have no or little vinegar, require more resting and mellowing time in the fridge than other quick pickles. They are usually best after a week or more. If olive oil has been used, the pickles are best served at room temperature to allow any congealed oil to liquefy, points out George.

- N.H.

CAPTION(S):

5 photos, box

Photo: ( 1 -- cover -- color) Get out of a pickle quick! Modern versions without traditional hassles

(2 -- 4 -- color) El Salvadoran Pineapple-Pickled Cabbage, left is good with grilled pork chops or chicken and a pile of fresh tortillas. Fresh corn, below, is delicious with pickled peppers and tomatillos. Famous Back Eddy House Pickles, above, are winners.

(5) This mango oil pickle was inspired by Indian flavors.

Photos and recipes from ``Quick Pickles,'' Chronicle Books

Box: Packing a peck of pickles (see text)
COPYRIGHT 2001 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Jul 18, 2001
Words:3450
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