For those of us who can’t jetset to San Francisco to eat the famed Wise Son pickles, this easy-to-do recipe will not only provide tasty results BUT will also make you feel like a DIY superstar. The Heathens have offered a couple different variations of pickling, but I would like to add my favorite from the Ball Complete Book of Preserving. These make a fun gift (perhaps for the Purim mishloach manot you’re making in a couple weeks??)
Category Archives: Cured and Pickled
It’s not kosher to boil a kid in its mother’s milk (Deuteronomy 14:21). So here’s my question, is it kosher to fry an olive in olive oil?
I was thinking of this a few weeks ago as I sat, tired and recovering from a cold and several days of travel at Palace Kitchen in Seattle where a friend had taken me and insisted that I have some olive poppers before indulging in a really remarkable hamburger. It reminded me of a different take on fried olives that I had loved at a place called Downtown in Berkeley. A week later I walked past and saw that they were gone so I decided that I would try to recreate their tasty feat for the oil drenched holiday of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah celebrates the fact that the oil on hand lasted 8 days, seven days longer than expected. As an aside it also celebrates the defeat of the Selucid Greeks at the hands of the Hasmoneon rebels (aka the Maccabees). But since their descendants had more than a few Rabbis killed our tradition concentrates on the oil.
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited over to my friends, Evan and Leo’s for a deli tasting. Moishe and Leopold as they sometimes refer to themselves are living the dream. They quit their jobs and are on the path to revitalizing Jewish deli in San Francisco, by opening a true delicatessen dedicated to high-quality meats and baked goods that are worthy of the San Francisco foodie palate . To help get their recipes down, they cooked up a storm and fed about 40 people house-made pastrami, corned beef, pickles, and coleslaw, all on fabulous rye bread. Leo made 14 loaves of rye and even threw in a chocolate chip challah toward the end of the evening. He’s turned into a master baker and showed me with great pride his rye starter that he brought with him from LA when he moved back to the bay. Evan is the meat man, and spend most of the evening slicing pastrami and corned beef, but thoughtfully smoked some shiitake mushrooms to make veggie reubens for the few vegetarians who dared to venture into the house of meat. The whole apartment has been taken over with bins of pickles fermenting, crates stacked with bags of flour and curing salts and cooling racks waiting for bread and rugelach. Evan’s roommate Robby may soon be up for an award for being the most tolerant house-mate in San Francisco, but I suppose the constant supply of food makes its easier to deal with.
With the great American tradition of Superbowl Sunday approaching, the heathens started contemplating how we could make the traditional tailgate fare “Jewish”. This proved to be somewhat challenging. I believe Gordon will be gracing the blog with bagel dogs, which gave me the idea to make homemade mustard, because what good bagel dogs need is some good mustard. It is actually a pretty simple task, and the end result is far superior to any store-bought mustard you can buy. Also given the long running debate over whether mayonnaise is goyisha food, it seems pretty well established that mustard is a perfectly acceptable Jewish condiment. While I can’t confirm it, many of the major western brands of mustard have suspiciously Jewish sounding names, Guldens, Plochmans, Heinz and Colman (who owned Frenchs for a long period). Also, the spicier, coarser, style is a staple in Jewish delis, which is probably how it came to be known as deli mustard. Gordon has done several posts on deli meats that he has piled on rye and slather mustard on, including pastrami, liverwurst and of course tongue. Now the tradition of Jews eating tongue with mustard goes all the way back to Genesis, when Abraham is visited by three men and serves them bread, a calf, cottage cheese and milk (along with a variety of other bizzaro rules, the stuff kashrut is based on doesn’t appear until later, in Leviticus) Additionally, Abraham had just circumcised himself because God told him to, so the man was obviously not thinking clearly. The men eat the food and tell Abraham that his 99 year old wife Sarah will soon have a son (Issac), whom he later offers as a sacrifice. Further along in the story it becomes clear these men were angels (surprise, surprise) and the Talmudic scholar Rashi determined that Abraham actually served them tongue and mustard, which he decided was the food of angels. Two of these same angles, later that day head on over to Sodom and Gomorrah, so it might have been the spicy mustard that got them all riled up… but the point of all that is that Jews have been serving mustard with their deli meat since they became Jews.
I am not going to go on and on about Katz’s deli again. It is enough to merely point out that if you want REAL pastrami then you must go to a REAL delicatessen. Which brings me to the reason I chose to make this dish. Almost everything that is labeled pastrami in an average market, deli and (and this pains me) every outlet in Israel is not pastrami. In fact if you wander into an Israeli supermarket and ask for pastrami you will be shown to a cooler filled with pastrama a term that is attached to any cooked and sliced meat- much like “ham” is used in the U.S. As for the American stuff, it is usually some version of roast beef with some sort of pepper spice rub on the outside. It bears as much resemblance to real pastrami as a Carl Buddig product does to whole cuts of meat.
Now, pastrami is not a quick thing to make. It is a minimum 5 day process that some extend out to two weeks. Your first decision is whether to use a brine or dry cure. A dry cure is more traditional, but a brine cure will impart the same flavor and also boost the liquid content for a more moist cut of meat. The second choice is whether to seek beef plate or use the more commonly available brisket. The third choice is about smoking. You can in fact smoke without a smoker. By using an oven smoking bag or liquid smoke you can get the same flavor as a smoker. Since I really wanted to play with a smoker, and don’t have one, I waited until I was planning a trip to my parents so I could use theirs.
More after the break.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a seminar entitled, “Yes We Can (and Pickle).” In addition to the fairly funny title, the event, put on by Avodah and AJWS, was devoted to food awareness. One of the workshops I went to was, not surprisingly, about pickling. I did not realize how much I didn’t know.
So let’s start with the basis. Pickling is a process used to preserve foods, such a cucumbers, by removing “bad” bacteria that rot food. It has been used for centuries to preserve food reaped in the warm months (before the times of refrigerators). Most cultures have their own variety using different food (kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut, for example). Many pickles are made via “quick fermenting,” during which vinegar is added. The vinegar kills all the bacteria. However, there are good bacteria, which aid in the digestion process, making them preferable to keep. The better way, in my humble opinion, is to use just water and salt, which accomplishes the same thing. Here, the yeast in the air ferments the sugars and kills off only the “bad bacteria,” leaving the good stuff
I spent last week in New York City. New York is known for many things, but pizza and delis are for sure on the top of the list. I definitely did not leave being deprived in either category. But when I was walking in the streets, I was reminded also of the pickle’s Lower East Side historical roots, as I was found stands with dozens of different types of pickles. Possibly a hallmark of Jewish delis, the kosher dill arose during the 1800s. Everyone around the U.S. knows the kosher dill, and I have even seen them in supermarkets in the deep South. Today, ironically, kosher dills are not necessarily kosher, but rather only refer to the particular recipe with the generous amount of garlic in the brine, though the historical name still remains.
So why bother pickling? Here are three reasons: (1) It is really fun – it’s sort of like a science experiment. (2) They are tasty. (3) The bacteria in fermented pickles (ie, not the ones with vinegar) have probiotics, which are good for you.
So here’s the recipe…
“Send a Salami, to your boy in the Army” that sign still hangs over the meat counter at Katz’s deli. Only in New York could those two words rhyme. I love salami, I love its texture, its fatty mouth feel and its subtle flavors. A good salami is dry cured and hung for weeks until it is a wrinkled shadow of it former self. Then and only then should it be sliced and enjoyed with a nice spicy brown mustard.
Of course for the home cook a dry cured sausage of any sort poses several hurdles. The first is obtaining the curing salts and bacterial cultures that ensure you don’t feed yourself botulism toxins. The second is having a dark spot that stays at 80% humidity and 60 degrees for 3 weeks. Perhaps in June I will go score a small fridge from the students vacating Unit 2 at Cal but until then I have to get my sausage fix differently.
Enter the hot smoke. A process of cooking at very low temperature (about 220 F) using wood smoke. You can also do the same thing without smoke, in Kansas City its called BBQ. I am trying two things at once, making an Italian style salami using a small amount of pink salt to preserve the color and give it that distinct cured flavor and also using a hot smoke cooking method (albeit without the smoke) to bypass the long curing process.
I had been wanting to make some more sausage for a few weeks, but was stymied by my inability to find a good source of beef fat. I had been to a number of meat markets with no luck, but then decided to go to the main branch of a local grocery store chain where they have a good supply of fresh meat. I asked one of the butchers and he was happy to supply me with about 4 lbs of beef trimmings and that yielded a little more than 2.5 pound of good clean diced beef fat. The best thing, no charge for the fat.
Recipe after the break
Pickled beef tongue is one of those litmus test foods. Either it completely freaks you out or you think that its one of the best things ever. As for myself, I am deep in the “best thing ever” camp. But I know a lot of people, Jews included who cannot get the image of a cow licking its lips out of their head when then see it. More for me.
I cannot recall the first time I ate tongue. I can remember my mother leaving a small tongue on the stove with pickling spices for hours on the lowest heat. It was a rare treat in Wisconsin as we were far from the delis of the East coast and even a decent salami was a matter of relatives airlifting them from New York.
When it comes to the ultimate deli tongue experience there is no finer place to enjoy it in my humble opinion than Katz’s deli at the corner of Houston and Ludlow in New York. There my sandwich is always tongue and pastrami, on rye (duh!) with spicy brown mustard. When I was younger I would get a full pickle, an order of their enormous steak fries and a Dr. Browns Cream Soda (my father would suggest the Cel-Ray is a more refreshing choice). It was truly a heart attack and heart burn on two plates. Today my appetite is a bit more modest and a just the sandwich leaves me stuffed for the day.
Alas, I live too far away to eat this tasty morsel with any regularity (which is good for my arteries) but I have worked out how to make it at home. All you need is time, about a week and one mail order ingredient. That ingredient is DQ Curing Salt or Pink Salt. It contains nitrite, which will work with salt to kill many pathogens including the ones that cause botulism. In addition the nitrite causes the hemoglobin to set up with a rosy red color (similar to what happens when you have carbon-monoxide poisoning). This creates the color you see in corned beef, brisket, hot-dogs, salami, pepperoni and pretty much every other dry cured sausage you can buy.
It should go without saying that tongue should be enjoyed on rye bread with good brown mustard. The only acceptable alternative is to serve it with fried eggs, hash browns and buttered rye toast.
Recipe after the break
This year, break-fast will be bagels and lox. I know Amiee has a whole side of cow on the cooker and I love a good brisket as much as anyone. But I wanted something that would be fun to make and would allow me to bring it all together after coming back from family services in the late afternoon (the joy of children is going to the short services). Since the bagels kettle and bake in less than an hour and the lox is already cured all I have left to do is slice some veggies.
There will be cheese cake for dessert, but more on that later.
Nova lox is yet another one of those little reminders of how poor Jews of Eastern Europe were. Clearly fresh fish was out of the question. Think of the fish that is associated with Jewish food. Smoked whitefish, gefilte fish (which is the tuna helper of appetizers) and of course lox. All of them preserved and all of them far from the caviar and Dover sole that might have graced a wealthier table. Lox has Scandinavian origins but I am not going to get in the middle of any arguments between Swedes, Danes and Norwegians as to who cured the first of these tasty fish.
As I mentioned before when I was a kid we would get our lox at Benjy’s deli. We would buy about 1/4 lb at a crack and it was pretty expensive. When I lived in Israel I realized that aside from canned, lox was the only form of salmon available. In Hebrew it is simply called salmon (say it with a slight Latin accent with an emphasis on the second syllable) Whether it was in the markets or on the menu that word always meant cured or smoked salmon. A pretty typical dish was pasta in a heavy cream sauce with chopped lox.
When I was an Israeli tour guide I would often drop groups in Jerusalem and then make my way home to the kibbutz I lived on. On my way to the bus terminal I would pass through the cavernous Mahane Yehuda markets. I would make my way up the crowded aisles past the fish mongers, butchers and bakeries stopping to pick up a few things to make dinner with. A bit of lox, fresh basil and a bottle of wine made for a nice meal in my own kitchen for the first time in a week.
If I am making bagels (and they are proofing in the fridge as I write this) then I should have some lox to go with it. Since I live in a part of the world where fresh wild salmon is almost a birthright it seems only right to make my own. Cured salmon is a pretty easy thing to do, like most cures it only requires time.
Recipe after the break.
Pickles are a deli staple. My favorite pickle memory is my then two year old son scarfed down a whole tray of sliced pickle spears in a Chicago deli while we waited for our sandwiches. He finished the small tray and looked up at us and asked if there were more- truly a sour tooth.
In any event, having always been a fan of pickled veggies I was delighted to come across a recipe in Michael Ruhlmans masterful tome Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. This first batch turned out a bit on the salty side so I am soaking them in fresh water for a day or two to knock down the salt content. But having said that this is one of those cooking projects that requires only patience.
More after the break.