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From My Window

Issue Date: August 19, 2021

Pickled

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



**********

Now that the cucumber tsunami has started my mind is on pickles. I don't can, but I do make freezer sweet pickles (I have a sister in law who loves those,) and a refrigerator dill that doesn't keep long. That is okay, because Mike and I tear through them fast, as we like them so much.

My mother has now â€retired†from canning, but she is famous for her dill pickles, which were very different from the pickles you buy in a store. I seriously believe that if you lined up all the jars of pickles she canned in her lifetime they would extend for a mile. It seems like that should be an exaggeration, but she made several different types of pickles annually for more than 50 years, including one she called â€bread and butter pickles.†That has the distinction of being about the only pickle I don't care for. I don't remember eating a store-bought pickle at home when I was a child. Few people visited our house without leaving with a jar as a gift.

Lots of us grew up with a pickle-making mom, (or in a few cases, Dad,) and I always enjoyed eating the pickles at the homes of friends and relatives. Each had a slightly unique taste, and everyone has a favorite. Some are more tart, some more strongly dill, some a bit spicy, some very garlicky, some crispy and some soft. My brother likes jalapeno peppers in his. Just in the category of dill pickles some are canned whole, some in spears and some sliced like coins for hamburgers. The choices are endless, and everyone has a favorite style.

When my sister and I were little I remember demolishing a quart of dill pickles and then drinking the juice. You would think that would wreak havoc on our digestive systems but I don't recall that happening. It has always amazed me that little babies, just started on solid foods, seem to love pickles. You'd think the strong taste would turn them off, but while they make comical faces, they will gum on them with great enthusiasm. And you seldom encounter an adult who doesn't like pickles.

Pickles are a good food for dieters, since they are low in calories. But they are also very low in nutrients, and the only thing you get a lot of with pickles is sodium. One medium pickle has about 32 percent of the recommended daily intake of sodium. I saw an account that the Philadelphia Eagles football team drank pickle juice as a way to quickly relieve heat cramps while playing a 2000 football game against the Dallas Cowboys in 109 degree heat. (Before sports drinks became so prevalent!) But with so much sodium content it is a good thing I no longer drink pickle juice. It is way healthier to eat fresh cucumbers than to eat pickles and a lot less work than making pickles, but what would a hamburger be without dill pickles?

The source I looked at said pickles were apparently invented as early as 4,000 years ago, as a way to preserve food in the times before refrigeration. Now pickled foods are ubiquitous in nearly all cultures, including many other pickled vegetables, eggs, and fish. (And the abomination of pickled pig's feet you used to see in big jars in taverns.) Pickled food is very prevalent in Asian cuisines, and it is fun to sample some of the pickled specialties of other cultures. Olives are a personal pickled favorite of mine, and there are almost as many varieties of olives as there are of dill pickles.

The term â€pickled†is used in England to refer to being drunk, but the origins of the term â€being in a pickle†for being stuck in a difficult situation are not very clear. There are a few theories, but none of them seemed too convincing to me. One of the uses of the term you do still hear if you follow baseball is the entrapment of a base runner between two infielders, â€caught in a pickle.â€

Pickles are an essential ingredient in tartar sauce, as is pickle relish on brats and hot dogs, and are the main ingredient in a highly unhealthy dill pickle dip I make that is as addicting as any food I can think of. What would the good German dish beef rouladen be without a dill pickle? What other pickled vegetable is sold in gas stations wrapped individually in plastic for travelers with a craving?

Dill pickles hold a unique place in my household because of one of our dogs. Ivy will eat literally anything. She eats deer poop, carrion that reeks, fast food wrappers she finds along the road, garbage she scavenges in a park, even sun-dried earth worms on the blacktop (worm jerky.) But I can safely eat dill pickles sitting on the floor because it is the only human food I can think of that she won't touch. Imagine thinking, â€Hmm. Don't know what this thing is but it smells way worse than deer poop.â€

Maybe the ultimate proof of how popular dill pickles are is that they even have made themselves a standard in an alcoholic drink. While many fruits and herbs are incorporated into popular drinks, olives and dill pickles are the only pickled things I recall encountering in cocktails. A Bloody Mary must feature a dill pickle in my world.

I bet now someone will tell me they have a pickled pig's foot in their Bloody Mary just to gross me out.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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