Thursday, September 27, 2007

Picklestorm II: Revenge of the Cucumbers

Dear Loyal Readers,
We are happy to present you with the second installment of the pickleventures of Mason, our roving blogger from the Great American Northwest. Please enjoy.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em!


Smoky Pickle Breakdown


The Empire Smokes Pickles


Insert Oral Sex Joke Here
Everyone has a dream. I have two dreams. Sadly, both of them involve pickles. This past Saturday, I made one of those dreams come true. I actually lived out a dream. Fuck. YES!
While I won't divulge the second of my two dreams (for fear that some clever bastard will steal my briny thunder) I have documented the events surrounding my quest to impart a smoky flavor into a dill pickle. And I did it. I have made smoky pickles and now my place in the annals of human history is secured.
Let's get cracking…
Here are some of the more basic ingredients. The usual suspects (note the addition of mustard seed):
Since these are going to be smoky pickles, we'll need a special ingredient. How do you get smoke into a pickle? Easy.

I'm kidding. Obviously your basic cigarette will never work.
Here's what you really need:

Filterless cigarettes. A little harsher, but more natural.
OK, I'll knock off the lame jokes and extremely lucrative product placement. Here's where the smoke flavor really comes from: smoked salt.
This stuff looks like street drugs - and costs almost as much - but it smells smokier than a house fire.
Things are starting to come together. The phone calls have been made to the Enemies of the Enemies of Crispness and they are en route.
Time to get the pickling music fired up.

Who's good at keeping secrets? OK, no one tell my dad that I bought dill from a store:

This dill lacks the flowers that I made such a big deal about in Picklestorm I. I hope I haven't made a grave error. We'll know in a few weeks. Let's press on and not allow ourselves to get bogged down in details.
Sweet! The Enemies of the Enemies of Crispness are here!

L –R: Hart and Jason, musician friends of mine. Jason does pull-ups. Me? I'm a push-up man. When the two of us hang out, we sort of complete this weird, muscular circuit. That came out wrong. Again, let's press on.
ERIC! You devil…
You guys remember Stacey. She coined the term "Picklestorm" and took many of the pictures in this series that feature me and my hairy arms.

Meet Chelsea . In this photo she is demonstrating the proper foot position for cucumber scrubbing.

She was the Rookie MVP(ickler) on Saturday:
Take a bow, Chels.
To be honest, the dudes didn't do a ton of work. What you can't tell from these pictures is that the living room crew provided excellent vibe that sustained the efforts of the kitchen posse. Like it or not, that vibe will be evident in the flavor of the pickles.

Here's a quick, inappropriate aside. See that lamp? It's from my mom's old house. It had been in my parents' bedroom from my earliest memories. I'm pretty sure this very lamp was present at my conception.
We've got a much larger gang for Picklestorm II, yet we're making exactly half as many pickles as we did for Picklestorm I. If this trend continues, next summer I'll have 50 people crammed into my place and we will produce a single pickle of such extraordinary vibe, flavor and crispness that it will possess the power save or destroy our planet. Imagine!
Enough fiddlefucking around. Let's make some smoky pickles…
Brine time! Forgive the smug look on my face. That is the expression of man who is living out a dream.

Note the painted portrait of meat on my kitchen wall.

Let's talk hot liquids. Really hot liquids, along with obsessively well-scrubbed cucumbers are the foundation of successful canning – especially when you don't double-boil the finished product. Double boiling has got to be the chief enemy of crispness. I'll trade safety for crispness all day long. To keep everything hot, my own father pioneered the foolproof Three Pot Method.

1. A pot of boiling water where the lids remain sterile while they await their final home atop a jar of pickles.

2. Mother brine: the big pot of boiling brine which feeds…

3. Baby Brine. Keep Baby boiling, too. Baby is much easier to handle than Mother. You pour the contents of Baby Brine into the packed jars.


Loading the jars… We used small (pint) jars, due to the HIGHLY EXPERIMENTAL nature of this batch.

Grape leaves, dill, garlic, peppercorns, mustard seed, cucumbers…

And now, the special ingredient is added. This is an historic moment. We used about 1/16th of a teaspoon of smoked salt for each pint of pickles. I wanted to use more, but Stacey kept me from going apeshit. And she was right, OK? Let's move on!

A little swig of whisky to help beat the heat (the kitchen was a sweaty, vinegary environment):

My parents must be thrilled right now.
Yes, this is my pickling shirt. It was a gift from my big sister who lives near DC (and who was probably not conceived in close proximity to the lamp from an earlier photo).
Back to work. We've got the seasonings and the cucumbers in the jars. Time to hit 'em with hot stuff from Baby Brine. Note the right hand: use a butter knife to fish out a lid from the boiling water. Do not touch the underside of the lid with your filthy fingers.
This is what it's all about, right HERE. This is an Enemy of the Enemies of Crispness in full glory.

Heaven, for me, will look something like the above picture.
Screw the neck down on the lid

And just like that, we're done. Let the jars cool upside-down and wait for the real world to come creeping back into your kitchen, supplanting that magical, pickle-making, dreamy feeling.

But let's not allow ourselves to get maudlin. WE MADE SMOKY PICKLES!! VICTORY OVER THE ENEMIES OF CRISPNESS!
Many thanks to my corporate sponsors and the participants of Picklestorm II.
Again, the basic recipe:

3 qts water
1 qt vinegar
1 cup salt [plain]
Boil water, salt and vinegar together 1 minute
Pack cucumbers in jars with garlic, dill & peppercorns, mustard seed, (this is where you can get experimental) with a grape leaf on top.
Pour boiling water, salt and vinegar over and then seal.
Suggestions: use a scant cup of salt [3/4 cup].Use apple cider vinegar.
PS: Since this was an experimental occasion, we made just seven pints. I'll pop open the first jar in about a month and post the results. If you hear nothing from me, it will either mean that the experiment was a total failure (.0003% probability) or that after taking a single bite, I sublimated into a being of pure delight and left the physical world in a briny, smoky flash.


Lisa said...

I guessed it was going to be smoked salt. Ever since Steve first talked about "discovering smoked salt" at that party a few months back, it jumps into my head now and then.

Anonymous said...

He can also play a mean lick on the gee-tar!

curtis said...

Congratulations, Mason. Seeing you live out your dream gave me goose pickles! What's next?

Matthew said...

Where did Mason get that amazing Adams-Morgan shirt, as a Seattle resident? I think he should give it to me.

Picklestorm Trooper First Class said...

Hum-diddly-Hum-diddly Hum-diddly YUM! Smoked Pickle Magic.