Chat Leftovers: In a pickle

July 2

Yep, there are a lot of cooking shows on TV these days, but how many of them can boast a host from right here in Washington? Tonight marks the debut of the Travel Channel’s “American Grilled,” whose head judge over 13 episodes is David Guas, owner of Bayou Bakery in Arlington. Bonnie S. Benwick was on hand in Chicago for a filming at Wrigley Field; she fills you in here.

Also in Food this week, Holley Simmons introduces you to the ketchup-obsessed local couple who launched ’Chups, a line of fruit condiments that they hope will someday be popular enough to compete with Heinz. And Tim Carman was on hand when superstar New York chef Daniel Boulud came to Washington to throw a dinner party for local chefs — who will become his competition when his DBGB Kitchen and Bar opens at CityCenter in September.

Special guest alert: David Guas joins our Free Range chat today. He’ll be happy to talk about his new show, for sure, and he’ll also be able to handle any culinary question you want to toss at him. The starting gate flies open at noon, so make sure to be on hand. And as always, you can submit questions in advance.

Until then, here’s a taste of things to come: namely, a leftover question from a previous week’s chat.

I’m determined to master the art of the pickle this summer. I’ve had great luck with quick pickles (slices), dill and sweet, where the hot brine gets poured over the slices in the jar. I have had absolutely no luck with spears using that method (they just wind up getting flimsy — no crispness at all) and even less luck (lots of innocent cucumbers lost) with the crock method. With the crock, using whole cukes, I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. Once they’re done, the ones I’ve been brave enough to try aren’t so much dill or even sour as just yucky.

It’s been a while since I pickled, but fortunately we have a fabulous local resource in the form of Cathy Barrow, a.k.a. blogger Mrs. Wheelbarrow. I sent the question to her, and here’s her reply:

Dear Pickler,

I’m not sure if you are lacto-fermenting (only salt and water plus flavorings) or using vinegar-based brine for pickling, so it is difficult to address your question directly, but I can tell you a couple of things that might just solve the problem.

Always use non-chlorinated water for pickling; chlorine plays havoc with the science of fermentation. If you’re not sure about the chlorine levels in your tap water, either buy bottled water or leave a pitcher of tap water uncovered on the counter overnight. Chlorine is a gas and will disperse.

Always cut the blossom end off the cucumber before pickling — it’s opposite the stem end. If you’re not sure, just cut a little bit off each end of the cucumber, then cut spears, chunks or leave the cucumbers whole, and continue with your pickling. The blossom end holds an enzyme that, if not removed, almost guarantees limp, slimy pickles. To further boost the crispness factor, some picklers use black tea; a (clean) oak leaf or grape leaf; or PickleCrisp (TM), found in canning departments, or alum, on the spice aisle, of many grocery stores.

Never use iodized salt. Use only kosher, pickling, canning or sea salt. The iodine will interfere with the brining science and will deposit an unpleasant, medicinal aftertaste.

Here is a link to a wrap-up of an Instagram and Facebook Pickling Tutorial I held a few weekends ago.

Thanks, Cathy! Follow her Canning Class series, which appears every other week during the summer. (The next installment is next week.) She is the master of the simple, clearly explained canning recipe, so if you’ve been intimidated about putting up food, check out her columns and blogposts, and give it a try. You’ll be glad you did.

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