The following is a guest blog from my dad Dan in Kansas City. This project and the pickle recipe were too good not to share.
Jennie and I had talked about making a batch of pickles now that summer is nearing the end and the fresh, home- grown cucumbers won’t be available for long. Daughter-in-law Lisa took an interest and I was more than happy to teach her my way of pickling.
There are as many pickle varieties as Baskin and Robbins has ice creams, probably more. My pickle is a very specific one known as a half-sour. This is a no-cook dill pickle that does not include vinegar. If you’ve ever enjoyed the free pickles on the table at Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue in New York, you know what they are. They’re a bright green in color, fresh and crisp, with accents of garlic. And they are quite addictive, in my opinion.
I bought a carton of Ball canning jars a few years ago and brought them up from the basement. They had been sitting empty since we finished the last batch of pickles. I rinsed them out and then washed them in the dishwasher. Jennie thought they needed a second washing (no surprise) so after two cycles through the dishwasher, the jars were ready to go.
Lisa, Jeff, Jennie and I set out for the farmer’s market in old downtown Overland Park this morning and it was a lovely day, unseasonably cool and arid for this time of year. The OP farmer’s market is a happening place on a Saturday morning and we saw several people we knew. After checking out the more than 70 vendors, we found the one with the best cucumbers. My pickles require the Kirby variety of a small to medium size. After telling her how many cukes we needed, the owner let Jeff and me go back to their truck and hand pick the ones we wanted. At $3 a container, we spent $21 for the seven containers that yielded 14 jars of pickles. The fresh dill came from another vendor at $2 for a large bunch.
Jennie wanted to shop the market for tomatoes and peaches and I wandered off to listen to the live music of Half Price Buddha, a local band hired to perform for the shoppers. After a while, she pulled me away from the concert to walk a block to Penzeys Spices where we bought our mustard seeds and coriander.
We got home and the work began. Lisa washed the cukes with a vegetable brush and we placed the lot in a clean sink filled with ice water. Soaking the cucumbers in ice water for a couple of hours increases their crispiness. We broke for lunch and returned to finish the job.
Jeff and Lisa prepared the fresh garlic, breaking the clusters into individual cloves and peeling their skin. At the same time, I prepared the brining solution on the stove using water and kosher salt. It is important to heat the water to dissolve the salt, but not to boiling point. Jennie rinsed the fresh dill and prepared it to go into the jars while Jeff took the dangerous job of seeding and cutting the fresh jalapeno peppers. Don’t rub your eye after cutting jalapenos or you’ll be shedding some real tears!
Lisa placed the spices and seasonings in the bottom of each jar and we all helped fill the jars with the ice-cold cucumbers. I then filled each jar with the warm brining solution, leaving about a half inch of air at the top. We placed the lids tightly on the jars and stored them where they will sit at room temperature in a dark place for two or three days. At this point, expect to see bubbles forming, a sign that the fermentation process has begun. Food scientists call it lacto-fermentation and it is essential to making half sours. Leave the pickles alone for another 48 hours and then move the jars to the refrigerator for about two weeks. They’ll be ready for eating and will keep in the fridge for a few months.
Bet you can’t eat just one!
The following recipe is for a small batch of pickles but we doubled it.
Dan’s New York Deli Pickles
Three dozen fresh Kirby cucumbers, 3-4” or so
8 cups water
½ cup kosher salt
8-10 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
12-16 sprigs fresh dill
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
16 whole peppercorns
6 bay leaves
Red Pepper Flakes
1. Clean jars.
2. Soak Kirby cucumbers in ice water for a couple of hours.
3. Put dill, peeled garlic cloves and other seasonings in bottom of clean jars.
4. Prepare brining solution with water and kosher salt. Warm on stove to dissolve salt but don’t boil.
5. Pack jars with cold cucumbers and pour in salt water, leaving ½ inch of air at top.
6. Place jars in a dark place at room temperature to ferment for about three days. Look for bubbles then leave for another 48 hours. Move to the refrigerator for two weeks.
7. They’re ready to eat! Will keep in refrigerator for a few months.
Happy 13th birthday and a big Mazel Tov to my cousin Matthew on becoming a Bar Mitzvah this weekend!
For those of you not as familiar, a Bar Mitzvah is when a 13 year old Jewish boy reads from the Torah for the first time. It is a rite of passage signifying he is now a young adult.
The title of this post, L’dor Vador, means from generation to generation. My favorite part of the ceremony was when the Torah was passed from grandparents to parents to Matthew, symbolizing the passing of knowledge and values to the next generation.
Of course, the majority of the weekend was spent celebrating (re: eating) with our extended family and friends. The food could best be described as Jewish/Soul Food fusion. There was food ranging from lox, bagels and blintzes to fried chicken and even a whole tray of bacon. All Matthew really cared about was that the food contained no GMO’s – he’s very socially conscious for a 13 year old.
There’s not much better than weekends like this spent celebrating and catching up with family.
Until we nosh again,
Two Happy Cooks
I am powerless against a good bowl of ice cream. I blame my family for this weakness.
My 94-year-old Grandpa Phil ate a heaping bowl of ice cream every night for the majority of his adult life, claiming his car would automatically turn into the Braum’s parking lot without his consent. In my house growing up, we ended dinner most nights with Edy’s slathered in Hershey’s syrup. My dad and brother are both former ice cream industry employees, having both worked on the inside at ice cream shops during high school.
Here in the Twin Cities, Mike and I love everything from Sebastian Joe’s to Culvers. But recently, I’ve wanted to try my hand at making my own ice cream. We got a Cuisinart ice cream maker for our wedding and took it for its maiden voyage yesterday. My takeaway from this experience: if you can push a button, you can make really good ice cream.
The key is to make sure your bowl is good and cold – Cuisinart recommends leaving it in the freezer for 24 hours before you start.
We used this great mix from Williams Sonoma – all you have to do is add half and half and heavy cream. You pour it into the machine, flip it on and let it do its thing. Happily, the machine only has one button that says “on” and “off” – it’s fool proof!
You can add your choice of mix-ins about 15 minutes into the process – we dropped in Oreos to make cookies and cream. Five more minutes of mixing, and voila – you’ve got ice cream.
We also got this reusable pint-sized storage container. While it’s adorable, it’s not as functional as I had hoped because it’s difficult to open if you have small hands like me. We see as a pretty major flaw – easy access to the ice cream is critical.
Until We Eat Again,
Two Happy Cooks
Last weekend was an annual rite of passage for my family – we ventured to visit the Oracle of Omaha at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting. The weekend, in short, according to Mike:
Step 1: Drive to Omaha
Step 2: Eat at P.F. Chang’s
Step 3: Go to Sleep
Step 4: Drive Home
Mike left out a few key details, so I’ll fill you in. There’s something for everyone at this rodeo, even if you don’t want to sit in an auditorium for the day and listen to two of the smartest guys alive impart their wisdom. Discounts abound at establishments like Borsheim’s and Nebraska Furniture Mart, where you can walk away with some sweet deals. There are dollar Dilly Bars. There is See’s Candy. There are Justin cowboy boots, the Geico Gecko, and the Fruit dudes from Fruit of the Loom.
My souvenir – the t-shirt and boxers, of course!
The highlight of the weekend is the meeting itself. It starts when we line up outside the CenturyLink Center at 6:00 AM in the cold and rain because according to my dad, it is critical that we get good seats. They open the floodgates and we walkrun to stake out our spot. My favorite part is the video, which this year included a cartoon of Charlie and Warren getting down to Gangnam Style and an assortment of great ads from the subsidiary companies.
I learn the most from the open Q&A session. My biggest takeaways are twofold.
- Keep it simple. Warren and Charlie invest in things they understand – candy, furniture, insurance, ice cream, shoes. And, they answer even the most complex of financial questions carefully crafted to stump them briefly, simply, and in plain English that even my non-MBA self could (usually) understand. There’s no need to overcomplicate things.
- Love what you do. Warren read every book on investing in the Omaha library by the time he was 11. He does what he does not for the money, but because he loves it. If you enjoy what you do, there’s a heck of a lot better chance that you’ll succeed.
I failed miserably at taking photos this time, so check out some great ones from my friend Kat here.
Until we eat again,
Two Happy Cooks
The “Real” Thanksgiving meal came and went, and it was fabulous.
From a yumminess perspective, our Thanksgiving brunch at my grandparents’ house in Muskogee, Oklahoma was one of my favorite parts of the day. We had my Aunt Susie’s fabulous quiche, some coffee cake from Corner Bakery, and smoked salmon on bagels. Perfection.
For the main event, we went to Tulsa to my aunt and uncle Jon and Angie’s gorgeous house that looks like it came out of a pottery barn catalogue. It is the perfect place to spend one of my favorite days of the year.
While we waited for the meal, we held a family ping pong tournament. It was highly entertaining not only to play, but to watch the entire family play and see who made it to the championship. For the record, my dad and cousin Stephen were the winning pair.
Here are some snaps of our Thanksgiving dinner. Each of the usual side suspects made an appearance – mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole. My cousin Nathan introduced us to “Green Bean Bundles” – delicious green beans tied together with bacon. I managed to kill Grandma Nancy’s orange jello mold by submerging it in warm water just a little too long, oops. No one seemed to mind too much. Our bird always comes from Greenberg
– these are the smokiest, savoriest thing to ever come out of Tyler, Texas. We topped it all off with lots of pies – apple, pumpkin and chess.
This year, we are lucky to have numerous opportunities to enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Since Thanksgiving is our collective favorite holiday, this makes us two very happy cooks. The first of these feasts was last night with Mike’s parents Tom and Leanne, brother Jim and brother’s brand new fiancé Katie.
Leanne made the famous Hearne sausage stuffing and homemade mashed potatoes. She managed to cook it all one-handed since she broke her arm a few weeks ago – she never ceases to amaze! The turkey was compliments of Byerly’s. It was all very delicious and satisfying on a Sunday night.
Katie decided to enjoy her Thanksgiving fixings in the form of a southern Minnesotan delicacy, The Turkey Commercial. Here’s how it works: make a turkey sandwich, pile it high with mashed potatoes, and smother the whole thing in gravy. I had never heard of such a concept. Curious, I consulted Google. While I didn’t find anything on the Turkey Commercial, I did find “Beef, Bread, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy,” a blog devoted entirely to the subject of the Beef Commercial.
I brought dessert – Betty Crocker’s Pumpkin Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting. These cookies are nothing short of fabulous. The cookie is a soft, cinnamon-laden pillow that serves as a vehicle for the browned butter frosting, otherwise known as crack. I’m fairly certain the ladies of the Betty Crocker Kitchens were inspired by this version from D’Amico and Sons inside our headquarters. To say the least, these cookies create a sensation every year.
Our first Thanksgiving of 2012 was wonderful, and I can’t wait for more!