A unforeseen, but pleasant, side effect of living on Kauai for the last going-on-two-years, I’ve become a much better cook. I like to eat well, but we’ve got a real lack of quality eateries. Almost every place is absurdly expensive, yet mediocre. The cost of isolation and catering to tourist palates. Doesn’t need to be great, but it does need to appeal to a wide range of tastes. And everything gets the vacation bump. You’re starving, you’ve had a great day, you’re in a beautiful place, it’s the best damn food you’ve ever eaten.
But if you were charged $17 for the same overcooked ahi wrapped in a stale Costco tortilla with a dollop of institutional pesto back home you’d throw in right back in your waiter’s stupid face.
By cooking at home I eat better, save a ton of money and, most importantly, deflect attention from certain aspects of my wifely duties which I don’t quite properly perform. I’ve earned more money this year betting on chicken fights than writing, the house is usually dirty, always plenty of chores that’ll get done on the perpetual morrow.
When the breadwinner comes home from a hard day at work and asks, “What’d you do today?” I can reply, “Making calzones from scratch.” Leave it at that. The full truth would include, “Wrote a self indulgent essay for a surfboarding website, went for a surf, smoked some hash, rubbed one out then took a nap.”
I make a big batch of pickles every few months. I love pickled stuff, it’s easy to do well. And I always end up with far more than I can use, which means jars of homemade deliciousness I can hand off to friends and neighbors. Score a few points, the adult equivalent of a hand drawn birthday card.
1 qt White Vinegar (I use Heinz brand, but I don’t know if it actually matters)
1 qt Water
1 cup sugar
½ cup sea salt
6 x 16oz wide mouth Mason jars
A ton of crushed red pepper flakes
First, you’ll need to prepare your veggies. I like to pickle asparagus, long beans, garlic, and sweet onions. Try to find asparagus stalks that are on the thicker side, they’ll stay crisper. I love the long beans because they have a chewier texture and go great on sandwiches once you’ve diced them up.
Wash the Mason jars very well, set them aside to dry while you cut your ingredients to fit.
If I’m planning on giving the pickles away I’ll mix ingredients in each jar so it’s a little sampler setup, but it’s easier to pack the jars when all the ingredients are roughly the same shape.
Onions get halved then cut into eighths, garlic peeled, asparagus and long beans need to be about a half inch shorter than your mason jars. Pack each jar as tightly as you can, jam any leftover garlic or onions in with the asparagus and long beans. Top with a tablespoon of red pepper flakes. If I have any ginger in the house I’ll peel and slice some up and add that too, but it’s hardly crucial. I just tend to buy too much ginger and am always looking for a reason to use it before it goes bad.
Once your jars are full set them aside. Now toss your water, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a pot and bring it to boil. Your house is going to stink like vinegar for a couple hours, best not to make this stuff if you’re expecting company.
When it’s come to a rolling boil use a Pyrex measuring cup to slowly pour the still boiling mixture into your Mason jars. Let them sit for a few minutes so everything can settle, then top off. Screw the lid down as tightly as you can. Be careful not to burn yourself, the jars will be hot.
I make these because they taste good, not because I’m trying to survive the Winter, so I don’t bother vacuum sealing them in a hot water bath. It’s a pain in the ass, I don’t really see a point in bothering. If you haven’t eaten them within a few months it’s probably safer to toss ’em in the garbage, but I’ve never had them last that long uneaten.
Let the pickles sit at room temperature for 24 hours, then toss them in the fridge. You can eat them once they’re cold, but I find they’re best after about a week.
There’s a good chance your garlic will turn a bluish color. Don’t worry about it, it’s due to a chemical reaction caused by minerals in the garlic during fermentation. Tastes fine, I think it looks cool. And, anyway, I have no idea how to stop it happening.
When your pickles are ready, be sure to post an artfully arranged photo on social media so everyone knows what an awesome cook you are, then gobble the fuckers up.