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Free Range on Food: All Kinds of Pickles, plus Mushrooms, Biscuits, Smokers and Vegetarian-Friendly Gelatin

Shorter packs four- to five-inch cucumber spears into the jars atop a base layer of garlic, fresh dill and coriander seed.
Shorter packs four- to five-inch cucumber spears into the jars atop a base layer of garlic, fresh dill and coriander seed. (Michael Temchine - for The Washington Post)

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The Food Section
of the Washington Post
Wednesday, August 27, 2008; 1:00 PM

A chat with the Food section staff is a chance for you to ask questions, offer suggestions and share information with other cooks and food lovers. It is a forum for discussion of food trends, ingredients, menus, gadgets and anything else food-related.

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Each chat, we focus on topics from the day's Food section. You can also read the transcripts of past chats. Do you have a question about a particular recipe or a food-related anecdote to share? The Food section staff goes Free Range on Food every Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET. Read about the staff of the Food section.

A transcript follows.

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Joe: Welcome, welcome, to today's chat. Hope you've got pickles on the brain, cause we sure do. We have special guests Heather Shorter and Melissa McCart, subject and author of today's pickling extravaganza, and David Hagedorn, who authored the jiggler on jelled dishes. (A bit of a retro theme today, don't you think?)
Shoot your questions on these and any other subjects our way, and we'll put em in our canners, process until we hear that inspiring "Ping!," then hand 'em back.
For our favorite posts, we have giveaway books: Jane Doerfer's "Going Solo in the Kitchen"; Stephan Dowdney's "Putting Up: a Year-Round Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition"; and Chris Fair's "Cuisines of the Axis of Evil."
Fire away!

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Lothian, MD: Pickled peaches, "Dilly" beans and pickled watermelon rind -- three of my very favorite pickled things -- a trip to the Amish Market is in order.

Heather Shorter: Or make them yourself! It's really not hard, once you get the equipment, and it's immensely satisfying to be able to serve your own stuff.

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Spicy Dill Pickles : Loved the canning/pickling section today. In regards to the pickle recipe, do the jars have to be the traditional canning jars if I know they'll all get consumed within a month?

Heather Shorter: If you're not processing them in a boiling water bath, or pressure canning, then they don't have to be traditional jars. I reuse mayonnaise jars, for instance. Just run them through the dishwasher before cold-packing them.

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Invisible City of North Potomac, Maryland: Could you comment on the contribution of the jalapenos to the spicy deli dill pickles? I generally don't enjoy the taste or the sensation of jalapenos, so I am considering leaving them out. Do they contribute taste, heat, both? When you were developing that recipe, I imagine you made it initially without them, and added them to achieve a certain goal. I'll probably put jalapenos in some of the jars so I'll know. I really enjoyed the article and in anticipation of yet another batch of cucumbers to be just the right size in the next day or two, I was trying to decide on a recipe just this morning as the paper arrived.

Heather Shorter: You can use any type of chili, really. I have made batches using a mild Hungarian chili that my husband is growing, and some using a little fresh habanero (those were HOT). I happen to like the fruitiness of fresh peppers. If you just want a little heat, then substitute a little pinch of dried chili flakes; the kind usually sprinkled on pizza.

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Dallas, Tex.: I'm going for "most random question," so lets see if I succeed!

Sometime in the mid-90s, my Latin teacher had a cookbook of ancient Roman recipes. It included a recipe for honey walnut chicken that was simply delicious. It was kind of appetizer-y, with the chicken cut into small pieces and the walnuts were chunky on the side (not ground and used as a crust for the chicken). Surprisingly well received at parties, we made it a few times before the photocopied recipe disappeared into the ether.

Alas, 13 years later I cannot find a recipe to save my life and the (evil hated) Latin teacher is no longer of this earth. Is this anything you have any idea about? Thanks!

David Hagedorn: I've AMASsed a lot of recipes in my time
But AMAT a loss for this one.
AMA gonna do my best to find one, though.

Joe: I thought it was "amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatus, amat." But I'm probably wrong.

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Fairbanks, Alaska: I'm interested in making icebox pickles... do you have a recipe to recommend? Also, none of the stores here currently have pickling cucumbers--will my results be worse if I use "normal" cucumbers? Thanks!

Heather Shorter: They won't be "worse," just different. I would recommend salting or bring regular cukes to draw out any bitterness and firm them up.

Heather Shorter: Oops, that should say "brining."

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Dr. Don Rockville, MD: According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, the word "pickle" stems from the Middle Dutch "pekel." Another term for "Middle Dutch" (a group of closely related West Germanic dialects in use between 1150 and 1500) is, surprisingly, "Diets."

Anyway I was wondering if you thought that people back then ate pickles when they were on diets.

Heather Shorter: Thanks for erusite question, Dr. Rockwell. Actually, I think they were mainly consumed by the assembly of the representatives of all the various states in the Holy Roman Empire.

Heather Shorter: Excuse me, "erudite."

Joe: Latin, Middle Dutch -- what an intellectual bunch today!

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13th St S.E.: I need to buy a new smoker, my dream was a green egg ceramic type but my wife doesn't share my dream. What kind of smoker do y'all suggest or use in your own backyard?

Thanks for doing the chats.

David Hagedorn: I use Weber's Smokey Mountain. It ranges in price between $200-$250.

Joe: I second this. Two of its aliases, btw, are the bullet smoker and R2D2.

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jellies not for my belly: do you have the substitutions available (using agar or another substitute) to make the gelled items vegetarian? I'd love to make them, but none is edible for a veggie. Thanks.

David Hagedorn: To be honest, I've never used vegetarian gelatin. Here is a link that explains what is equivalent:
http://www.foodsubs.com/ThickenGelatins.html

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Lebanon, NH: I've been mushroom hunting for five years (more for the science than the food), and have only just stumbled upon a local spot with edibles. My kitchen is overflowing with chanterelles and black trumpets! I can't find any recipes for black trumpets that aren't completely gourmet - and I'm on a grad student budget. I've found vague hints about adding it to stews, soups, sauces, and even wine, but I would love a solid recipe or two. Thanks!

Bonnie: Well, you've got yourself some fancy mushrooms, but don't feel like you can't use them in your favorite mushroom recipes. Chanterelles are prized for their soft flesh and delicate fragrance, and black trumpets are noted for their buttery flavor.
Check out these recipes from our deep archives (which is why 2 of them are written out instead of presented as links). The last one calls for shiitakes, but you could certainly use the exotics you have instead. Mixed Mushroom Pan Roast
MUSHROOM POT PIE
4 appetizer servings
This recipe is from Jeff Tomchek, co-owner and executive chef of Indigo restaurant in Great Falls.
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 pound mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster, chanterelle, morel or black trumpet, cleaned, stemmed if shiitake, and trimmed to uniform size
1/4 cup finely diced and blanched carrot
1/2 cup finely diced and blanched celery root
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon flour plus extra for rolling the dough
Salt and black pepper to taste
About 1/2 pound commercial puff pastry, defrosted according to package directions
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven according to directions on the puff pastry package.
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Add the mushrooms, blanched carrot and celery root, shallots and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the wine, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the flour and cook for 3 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm while you prepare the puff pastry tops.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a size large enough to cut 4 circles to fit on ramekins, about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg wash and bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet until golden. Remove.
Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees.
If necessary, reheat the mushroom filling. Divide the filling among the 4 ramekins. Cover each with pastry and finish in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve at once.
NOTE: Blanch by cooking in boiling salted water until just barely tender.
Per serving: 434 calories, 6 gm protein, 24 gm carbohydrates, 35 gm fat, 76 mg cholesterol, 16 gm saturated fat, 380 mg sodium
SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS WITH AMARETTO AND SNOW PEAS
3 to 4 servings
Hazelnut oil is usually available at larger grocery stores; if unavailable, use walnut oil or olive oil.
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound snow peas
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons hazelnut oil or walnut oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons amaretto (or to taste)
Few drops of fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Cut the stems off the mushrooms at the cap and discard. Cut the small caps in half, the larger caps in quarters. Snap the ends off the snow peas and remove the strings. Cook the snow peas in rapidly boiling salted water for 10 seconds. Refresh under cold water and drain. Blot the snow peas dry.
Heat the hazelnut oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the snow peas and cook for 1 minute, or until hot. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the pan juices just to a boil. Correct the seasoning and serve at once.

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Tenleytown, DC: Hi, love the chat. We never made it to the beach this summer and my husband is desperate for the bbq chicken that the Rotary clubs sell along the way to the beach. I think its more of a vinegar-based marinade (definitely not a tomato based sauce) Do you have any suggestions? Thanks

Bonnie: Oh man, I haven't had any of that chicken all summer. The club guys don't give out exact amounts, but have told us in years past that the sauce contains vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, poultry seasoning, salt, black pepper and sometimes hot sauce. Not sure if it's marinated in the stuff, but I do know that frequent basting is key. Report back!

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Takoma Park, MD: Perhaps Lothian is going to the Amish Market for ingredients.

Joe: I hope so!

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Seattle, WA: As a vegetarian, I won't eat traditional gelatin, but how can I figure out how to sub in agar-agar? Thank you!

David Hagedorn: Here's what I found from google university: 2 tablespoons agar powder in one pint of water cooked for 5 minutes...then add fruit/vegetables and set. I suggest you set a small amount to test the texture first and add more agar if you need to.

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Richmond: We always go crazy trying to find old fashioned pickled peaches for Thanksgiving like we used to have. So many people think they're the same as spiced peaches. Maybe I'll try to do it myself this year. Can I just freeze them and skip the canning process which scares the bejeebers outta me?

Heather Shorter: You could freeze them, but the texture might not be pleasing once thawed. You might end up with pickled peach puree.

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Arl, VA: Do you have some ideas for prepare-ahead foods for a BBQ/party so that we won't be slaves to the kitchen or grill? So far, pulled pork is the main meat, coleslaw, tomato and mozz bruschetta, and what else???

Joe: How about our favorite corn recipe of the summer? The recipe calls for it to be served warm, but you can certainly do that in advance (not too much in advance, but right before people arrive) and have it at room temperature. I did it about six times this summer.
Same goes for this smoky fruit crisp, which could come off the grill (in its cast-iron skillet or skillets) up to an hour before people get there and if covered with foil would certainly still be warmish by the time people got around to dessert. It's fabulous -- and even more so with ice cream (which you can make, or of course buy, way in advance.)

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Washington, DC: The article on pickling did not touch on the important difference between vinegar pickles and fermented pickles. A more complete discussion of the art and craft of pickling would serve an important educational function. Heather, have you tried making fermented pickles?

Heather Shorter: Fermented pickles are a little trickier. I have tried them, not successfully. I'd love to perfect sauerkraut, as homemade sauerkraut is out of this world.

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Beets!: I have recently become a beet convert. (The ones we had when I was a child were from a can and gross.) I usually roast them, but I had pickled beets at a restaurant recently that were to die for. I don't drink and the pickled beets recipe today relies on wine. Do you have any alternatives?

Bonnie: Here you go! No wining: Pickled Beets

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DC: Where can I buy the dry-packed scallops in today's recipe? I love scallops, but one thing that always puts me off buying them is that they're soaking in a puddle of goo. Thanks.

Bonnie: We bought ours at BlackSalt in the Palisades neighborhood (202 342-9101). Ask for Scott, head fish guy.

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Honey substitute: The scallops recipe looks divine, but there's one problem for me: I'm violently allergic to honey. What can I use instead?

Bonnie: Try agave nectar instead. You'll be so trendy!

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Washington DC: Hi all, Any tips on my first CSA beets ever? I'm excited. Do I need to peel them? I'm thinking of roasting them with garlic and olive oil, eating half that way, and cutting half up for a salad with goat cheese and arugula. Sound right?

Bonnie: Peel, yes; all systems are go on the rest of your plans. Did they come with the greens? If so, that's an extra treat for you.

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Houston, Texas: BBQ make-ahead: You can also get a bag of frozen fruit and put it out in a bowl. It's a yummy cold fruit salad.

Joe: No offense to my fellow Texan, but I dunno about this... Don't most frozen fruits thaw into mush? I want my fruit salads, more so that any other fruit dish, to retain that perfect texture, especially here in the height of the season.

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Richmond, VA: I am looking forward to trying the jellied desserts in today's Food section. I have visited England several times in the summer and had lots of delicious fruit jellies. Are the recipes flexible? Can you substitute any kind of berry for the strawberries and can you sub wine for the juice? I have raspberries and blackberries but no strawberries.

As for the rose wine, I also like white wines and often have them about. Are there any other types of white wine/fruit pairings that come to mind?

David Hagedorn: Raspberries and blackberries would be fine substitutions. Blueberries have a lot of pectin in them, so the gelatin might be too stiff at this ratio. If you wanted to try that, start with a smaller amount of gelatin and set a small amount (I do that in the freezer and keep an eye on it; it takes only a few minutes)to see how stiff the gelatin gets.
If you sub wine for the juice, cook some of the alcohol out so it won't impede setting. In the wine gelee, I adjusted the amount of gelatin to compensate for the alcohol; still it doesn't hurt to cook some of it off)
As for substituting other wines, experiment at will. Of course sweeter wines would require less sugar. I've used Riesling is lovely in gelees; so is Champagne (with vanilla and pears?? mmmm!). The possibilities really reach as far as your imagination here. I saw Champagne grapes in the market yesterday; they would be beautiful with a Riesling gelee.

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Make Ahead Recipes: Would the Food section consider doing a special issue on making "do ahead" meals? I'm home on maternity leave but will be going back to work soon. I won't get home until about 7:00 and it's going to be really tough to get dinner on the table and take care of everything else that needs to get done, and get the baby to bed. Phew. I'm sure moms with older kids would love it too.

Thanks.

Bonnie: Good idea. In the meantime, we'll try to identify some recipes already in the database. Send us your contact info via food@washpost.com?

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Marmala, DE: How many pounds of onions go into a batch of your onion marmalade, Heather?

Heather Shorter: I usually start with between 5-7 pounds. It makes surprisingly little marmalade once the water has cooked out of the onions.

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Maryland: Random question - I am pregnant, feeling a little under the weather, and thinking some homemade eggdrop soup is in order. However, I'm not sure if this is something I can eat since I'm pregnant and need to avoid raw eggs. Are the eggs in egg drop soup considered fully cooked? I know this isn't a health chat, but thought the Food staff with its many years of culinary education may know the answer. Thanks!

Bonnie: Mazel tov! They do cook in the broth. But if you're worried, use pasteurized eggs; last time we checked, Harris Teeter carried the Davidson's brand.

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Alexandria: My parents made spaghetti with Ronzoni wheat noodles last night, which I hate. Can you remind me of the results from your wheat-noodle test?

Bonnie: Bionaturae Organic, Trader Joe's Organic and De Cecco ranked in order at the top of that taste test, done 3 years ago. We've lately had good results using Barilla Plus, which is billed as multi-grain.

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BBQ: you can make corn muffins the day before.

Joe: Good thought. These Apricot-Pecan Corn Muffins have a barbecue-friendly appeal, don't they?

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Washington, DC: You've had some great cocktail recipes this summer--the gin drink with peppercorn syrup was fun to make. Do you have any suggestions for a fun end of summer cocktail I could make this weekend? Perhaps something with unusual ingredients, citrus, or herbs, and no berry-related juices?

Joe: Spirits guru Jason Wilson sez:
"I would suggest the Formosa from our winetail package, or maybe the Complement Cocktail from last year, which has an interesting herb thing going on. OR...you could make a variation of a margarita that I've been enjoying. 3 oz. grapefruit juice, 1 1/2 oz. blanco tequila, and an ounce of Cointreau, served either up or on the rocks. I don't have a name for it, so you're free to name it what you want."

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Eggs in aspic: Timely story today: I just promised a friend I'd make him poached eggs in aspic. (He requested calf's tongue in aspic; this is the compromise.) My online recipe search turned up impossibly complicated ones (starting with the bones) and suspiciously easy ones (using canned beef consomme) but nothing that looked reasonable. Suggestions?

David Hagedorn: Well, poach the eggs ahead of time and place them in a water bath. Trim them of extraneous strands so they are perfect ovals. Line muffin tins with film wrap. Dissolve gelatin in beautifully clarified rich chicken stock (one tablespoon gelatin to one pint of stock, but again, test a little first to achieve desired consistency) and cool. Set a small amount in each tin. Decorate with an herb leaf if you want and set with a bit more gelatin. (dip the leaf in syrupy gel) Dry the poached egg carefully and place it in tin. Cover halfway with gel and set. Cover the rest of the way and set. Invert to serve. It's a lot of work, but it does impress!

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Speaking of pickles.....: ....can you (or any other chatters) explain to me the appeal of the pickled egg? I'm thinking of making some (inspired by some jewel-tinted beet juice I have leftover). But other than the odd delight of eating something hot pink, I'm not convinced the flavor and texture are going to do it for me.

Anyone want to push me in the culinary pool with their thoughts? And if you're giving the nudge, would love your favorite recipe (especially with info about how long they keep). Thanks!

Heather Shorter: Sorry, I've never tried to make them, and don't really find the idea appealing. But, they do look pretty.

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DC: Hi Rangers - This month's Cooking Light has a recipe for rock lobster that I'd really like to try. Have you or the chatters seen any around these parts? Thanks!

Joe: Those grilled Baja-style tails look good, don't they? Of course, the reason they're Baja-style is that the coast of Mexico and So-Cal is home to warm-water variety of rock (aka spiny) lobster, so they get them fresh. We asked our go-to guys at Blacksalt in the Palisades, and they say they can get them in for customers who want them, but cautioned that they're either frozen or sometimes can come in live -- but the live ones (these are from Florida) don't ship so well.
One of the appeals of the rock lobster (sing it, B-52s fans!) is the size of the tail, but you can find Maine lobster tails that big -- and up to a pound, frozen, at Blacksalt. Of course, you can also buy a whole live lobster and just use the tail; just get one about 2 pounds, and the tail should be big enough. Use the claw meat for a lobster salad the next day, and the body of course for stock...

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Birmingham, AL: Did you ever discuss in a chat or do an article about using the Vita Mix? I seem to remember you saying you planned to do one and I would love to see that.

Joe: I sure did -- Here's my Tool Test column about the Vita-Mix and two of its competitors.

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Woodbridge: Do you have a recipe for a wheat berry/multigrain salad I have enjoyed from store salad bars? The dish has a sweet-ish dressing and usually has dried cranberries sprinkled in. The version at Wegmans is especially delicious. I would like to bring it to a couple of cookouts this weekend

Bonnie: Wegmans can't give exact amounts, but if you're up for experimenting, here are the ingredients they gave us: wheatberries, sunflower seeds, canola oil, crushed red pepper flakes, raisins, lemon juice, parsley, honey, ginger, distilled white vinegar, sea salt and a "secret blend" of spices.
And here's one from Recipe Finder that we like a lot, although it's not as sweet: more wheat berries

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Honey v. agave nectar: Thanks so much for the recommendation! Is the substitution of agave nectar for honey 1:1? And can I find it in most stores?

Bonnie: 1:1, yes. It's just a little thinner than pourable honey. It's at Whole Foods Market and Mom's Organic Markets, for sure.

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Best refrigerator pickles: I got the recipe after a friend made them, and I've had to give out the recipe several times after my friends have tried mine.

Heat 1/2 gallon of water. Dissolve 1C kosher salt into water. Let cool. Add 1/2 gallon white vinegar. Put a sprig of dill and a garlic clove in each jar with whole cucumbers. Add brine. Store in refrigerator; ready to eat in about a week.

Joe: Thanks!

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Hampton Roads, VA: I thought the pickle article was great, but honestly, I'm not sure I could every try to make my own dill pickles (my very favorite pickle). To me they are a very specific taste, a comfort food, and I don't want to fancy them up. What I would love to try, though, are some pickles that are used in other cuisines. I think there are pickles and relishes used in Indian cooking (or rather, served with Indian dishes); I've heard of kimchi and other east-Asian hot fermented pickles but they sound a little scary! I'm sure some middle-eastern dishes must use pickles, but I don't know of any. What do you think is a good starting place for someone who has never pickled but wants to try a more exotic pickle?

Heather Shorter: I highly recommend The Joy of Pickling, by Linda Ziedrich. It includes pickle recipes from all over the world. It's been an inspiration to me.
One quick and easy (and different) recipe is Vietnamese pickled daikon and carrot.

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Sambal, anyone?: Hi! I could have sworn that one of the recipes last week called for an ingredient called sambal, so I went and bought a jar ... and now I can't find the recipe! (I found just one, from several years ago.) Three questions: Might you have some sambal recipes to share? Does it matter what kind of sambal is used? There are quite a few. Last, did any of last week's recipes include any ingredient that might've been a new word to Western eyes and that said "available at Asian food stores"? Thank you!

Jane Touzalin: Maybe you're thinking about last week's recipe for Basil Chicken? It called for a couple of items found in Asian markets. One was sweet soy sauce, or kecap manis.
Sorry, can't help with the sambal question. I've only used sambal oelek. But my understanding is that sambals are many and varied, so I'd expect that yes, it would matter what kind you used. Maybe someone can help me out here?

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Kensington, MD - blackberries: Hi, I picked 2 lbs of blackberries last week Thursday and just turned to them in preparation to make a blackberry pie. Unfortunately, a few of the berries developed a fuzzy mold (a total of 3 or 4 berries out of the many). Am I correct in thinking that if I remove those berries (and their neighboring berries) and thoroughly wash those that remain, my pie will be okay? Thanks.

Joe: Yes, you are correct!

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Buttermilk: I have about a half quart of buttermilk leftover from a chicken dish I made Monday.

What can I use the remaining buttermilk for?

Many thanks!

David Hagedorn: To me, the free association to buttermilk is "biscuit."

Joe: My thoughts exactly.

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Arlington, VA: I would really like to make some pickles, but my favorites are bread and butter pickles not the dill, is there a good recipe to make those? Yummy!!

Melissa McCart: I've made a couple different kinds, but my favorite has been the one from Cook's Illustrated:
INGREDIENTS
1 pound pickling (Kirby) cucumbers , sliced crosswise into 1/8-inch disks
1 medium onion , halved and sliced thin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1. Toss cucumbers, onion, and salt in colander set over bowl. Let stand 1 hour. Discard drained liquid.
2. Bring vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and turmeric to boil in large saucepan. Reduce heat to low, add cucumbers and onion, and press to submerge in liquid. Cover and cook until cucumbers turn dullish olive-brown, about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer entire pan contents to glass bowl. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 2 hours before serving. (Pickles can be refrigerated in covered container for up to 2 weeks.)

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Buttermilk biscuits: OK, but I don't have a biscuit pan, nor do I have recipes.

Help???

Joe: A biscuit pan? Don't need one. Just a cast-iron skillet.
Here's my favorite biscuit recipe, from my sister Teri. (For the record, baker Elinor Klivans told me that when she tried these, they were the best she'd ever had, and she's had many, many.)

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pickled zucchini: I made pickled zucchini and onions last week (I halved an Everyday Food recipe). As I've been eating the pickled zucchini/onions, I've been adding fresh vegetables to the brine. So I'm wondering how long I can keep adding to the brine before I need to toss it all out and start fresh again?

Melissa McCart: Like the spicy dill pickles in today's recipes, I'd probably toss it after a month.

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Philadelphia: I enjoyed the article on cooking for one - most of my cooking is for one, but I usually either follow a recipe and go ahead and eat the leftovers the following lunches or dinners (I figure, since the meal was originally just for me, I don't have to worry about leftovers being food I don't like...) or just toss out the recipes entirely and eyeball everything (which has produced some interesting results - and often ends up leftovers anyway). To be honest, though, it's the clean-up that usually makes me skip recipes - for some reason, when it's just me I try to use as few items as possible so that cleaning up is simple. If it's me and someone else, I don't mind, even if I'm the one doing all the cooking and then all the cleaning later.

I don't have any of my Roman cookbooks handy (er, yes, I have a few - but unfortunately none of the recipes I've memorized are the honey walnut chicken one), but I found this recipe online that might produce a similar dish. http://www.recipezaar.com/132981 The walnuts are coated with honey and then fried, and then later added on top of chicken that's been cut into pieces/strips.

Bonnie: You are one helpful, attentive chatter. Hey Editor Joe...

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pickled eggs!: I used to have these all the time when I visited my great grandmother in PA Dutch country. They are delicious. Here's a Googled recipe.

http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/79/Pennsylvania_Dutch_Pickled_Eggs46359.shtml

Joe: Thanks! We also ran this great one for Pickled Quail Eggs from Teatro Goldoni chef Fabrizio Aielli. I loved 'em because quail eggs are so creamy and don't get as chalky when hard-cooked -- but also I think I especially liked these better than other pickled eggs because they're bite-sized.

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agar agar: The link David posted earlier says this: "Substitute one tablespoon powdered gelatin for every tablespoon of powdered agar."

Not sure how that translates with today's recipes.

David Hagedorn: That would make it a direct equivalent. Thank-you! Remember, always test a small amount first when making substitutions.

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the other Richmond: There's nothing you could pickle I wouldn't love. jus sayin'

Joe: I know the feeling. But there may be limits, such as ...

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Pigville, USA: I'm always looking for ways to preserve fine pork products. Is it possible to pickle bacon?

Joe: Bacon is already preserved (through the salting and the curing), so why, oh why? But anything's possible -- and in these food-obsessive times just about everything's been done. Check out this online account of pickling bacon. My objection: the description of the final product as "pretty floppy." Not what I want in bacon, but...

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Petworth: First - thanks for the canning article!

Second, for the mushroom person, those would be great in risotto! They would also work well in a lot of eastern/central European dishes. For example:

>From "Please to the Table" Von Bremzen and Welchman (The same cookbook has a MOST wonderful wild mushroom toast recipe.)

WILD MUSHROOM CAVIAR (Gribnaya Ikra)

1-1/2 pounds fresh porcini, portobello, or cremini mushrooms 4 tablespoons light olive oil 1 medium-size onion chopped 3 cloves garlic, chopped 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (optional) salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

1. Wipe mushrooms, separate stems from caps and coarsely chop both.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring until they begin to throw off their liquid. Turn the heat up to high and continue to cook and stir until the mushrooms reabsorb most of the liquid and are lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside

3. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet and saute the onion until deep golden, about 15 minutes

4. combine the mushrooms, onion and garlic in a food processor and process until minced but not pureed

5. In a large bowl, combine the mushroom mixture, mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons each lemon juice, dill; add salt and pepper. Mix well, cover, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to settle. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired

Bonnie: Can't go wrong with mushrooms on toast. Boy, have I come along way in the mushroom appreciation dept.

Joe: Welcome to our world, Bonnie. No matter what people say about us mushroom lovers, one thing's true: we're fun-guys! (Ba-doom-boom.)

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Beets again: Oh, do tell, what do I do with the greens? Toss them in the salad? I would have thrown them out. Thanks!

Bonnie: Love it when there's a real dialogue going on. The greens are best eaten same day you get them. They taste a bit like chard, and they're really good for you: iron, beta carotene, B vitamins...Wash them well, then steam 'em, and coarsely chop. Some people remove the ribs/stems, and some don't. Saute the steamed greens in a little butter, maybe some garlic, with salt and pepper. Or add them as you would add greens to a soup or pasta recipe.

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McLean, VA: Hi,

Loved both articles on jellies and pickling (wish I'd known my grandmother better, she used to do these things).

Do some of the autumn vegs pickle well too? Like squashes (particularly pumpkin) or am I really off-base?

Thanks

Heather Shorter: I've never tried pickling squash; the texture might not lend itself to preserving. Pickled turnips can be delicious.

Melissa McCart: I've seen a few recipes for pumpkin pickles. . The issue with fall veggies is acid content; since some of them have less acid than summer vegetables such as tomatoes, you'd have to be sure to follow the recipe and boil them longer.

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New Haven, CT: I've got some watermelon rinds and was thinking of pickling them, but as a lifelong northerner I have no idea how they're supposed to taste. Are they very sweet, traditionally?

Heather Shorter: They are very sweet, yes. Unfortunately I don't have a reliable recipe, as my southern husband isn't wild about them.

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Dupont Circle, D.C.: I am loving your coverage of dining for a single person. Normally when it's just me, dinner is cheese and crackers even when I have the hankering to do something bold and creative. Next time I'll take the plunge and give it a go.

Joe: Glad you're liking it. As a single cook myself, I'd love to hear about any tricks out there that chatters may have. In fact, our next installment is on ideas for bringing creative, healthful lunches to work that don't necessarily require a thermos or microwave. Any and all ideas are welcome -- what do you take to lunch, or do you?

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Takoma Park, MD: As a certified food service manager, can you tell me what sort of shoes I should wear for hygienic food preparation?

(q.v. comment on the article about barefoot pickle prep)

Joe: We had an entire article about barefoot pickle prep? Wow -- I must have missed that one (and I edit the section). Ah, heavy sigh, heavy sigh.
What we ran was an article about pickling at home, and as part of it we had an informal pickling session with Heather Shorter, who did her thing while dressed casually, indeed. In the restaurant kitchen she's leasing to make pickles for her business, she wears whites and clogs.
As a certified food service manager, can you appreciate that?

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Downtown DC: A coworker just gave me a bounty of lima beans and a butternut squash. I don't like corn so I am at a loss as to some good ways to use up the lima beans. Any thoughts?

Thanks!

Joe: Funny you should ask this, cause I was just dealing with a bounty of lima beans myself last night. (Mine were from the 14th/U Farmers Market.) I ended up going for an off-the-cuff interpretation of this Vegetable Curry from last year's cooking-class special. I used many more limas than called for, cause I had em, and used Italian flat beans and blue potatoes and no okra, cause I had pickled all of that. Oh -- I also started with some homemade garam masala given to me by Monica Bhide, rather than any of the other spices. I ate it last night with a piece of mahi-mahi (broiled, with a little urfa pepper from Kalustyan's in New York sprinkled on it). Was great last night, and maybe even better for lunch today, now that all the flavors have melded. I'm having it as I type (OK, between sentences) with some wild rice.
Another possibility to use up more than 1/2 cup lima beans is this Chilled Butter Bean Soup we ran a couple years ago from Chef Chris Clime. I haven't tried it, but it looks mighty good.
Of course, limas are so delicious that cooking them in a little water, butter, salt and pepper until tender is a delicious way to go, too.

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I'm always looking for ways to preserve fine pork products: I grew up seeing pickled pigs feet in all the small convenience stores!

Joe: Yes indeedy.

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pickled watermelon rinds: cloyingly sweet with the sharp contrast of the cloves to save them.

Joe: Actually, I found that with this recipe today, the lime juice balances, too, so that it's sweet/sour.

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Petworth: Oh, I hate that salt and vinegar chicken. It's the chicken of my childhood, and I hate it. That's made with "Cornell BBQ Sauce." I always wondered how a school as good as Cornell could come up with such a BAD recipe. Sadly, my mother LOVES the stuff, so we ate it a lot.

http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/Erie/cu-bbqsauce.html

CORNELL BARBECUE SAUCE (enough for 10 halves)

1 cup cooking oil 1 pint cider vinegar 3 Tablespoons salt (Adjust salt quantity or eliminate to meet individual health needs and taste. BBQ chicken basted frequently during cooking will be saltier than chicken that has been lightly basted.) 1 Tablespoon poultry seasoning 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 egg

Beat the egg, then add the oil and beat again. Add other ingredients and stir. Brush sauce on the broiler halves every few minutes during cooking. The recipe can be varied to suit individual tastes.

Leftover sauce can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Bonnie: Yet you are gracious enough to pass along the recipe. I'm impressed, Petworth.

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Yuengling!!: As a former Pennsylvanian, I enjoyed reading about the Yuengling brewery (and the pickled beets) today. My friends and I were recently debating how Yuengling can produce such good porter and sell it at about $20/case? Micros are priced at $32/case. Is it because Yuengling is privately held and has no shareholders to answer to? Because they have been in business so long that they own the factory and equipment outright? I doubt that, unlike SNL's "Change Bank", the answer is simply volume - they aren't that large.

Joe: Beer guru Greg Kitsock sez this:
"Yuengling is indeed privately owned, so there are no shareholders that brewery president Dick Yuengling must answer to.
"The porter, like all Yuengling beers, does contain a certain percentage of corn grits, which is ... or at least used to be ... cheaper than barley. (With grain prices rising due to the current ethanol craze, I don't know what the current situation is.)
"But I think the main reason Yuengling beers are cheaper is the economy of scale. Yuengling produced about 1.7 million barrels last year. Among craft breweries, only Boston Beer Co., with its Sam Adams brands, did more (close to 1.9 million barrels).
"All other craft breweries are much smaller than Yuengling. Sierra Nevada does about 600,000 barrels a year, for purposes of comparison, New Belgium maybe 400,000, there are a few others in the 100,000-200,000 range, but most, like Old Dominion (25,000 barrels), are quite tiny.
"Yuengling also stays close to home, so it doesn't incur the shipping costs that a West Coast brewery would. Its beers are available only in about a dozen states along the Eastern Seaboard."

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St. Paul, Minnesota: There are kohlrabi showing up in abundance in our farmers markets here and I thought they might be good pickled. I've only had them raw. How should I pickle them? Should I cook them a little bit? Will they get soggy or stay crisp, do you think? And what spices would be good?

(These will probably just be refrigerator pickles.)

Thanks!

Bonnie: Here's hoping our pickling experts will also weigh in, but I think you wouldn't need to cook the kohlrabi -- its crunch, cut into slices or wedges, would be delicious. Maybe use small to medium ones, and remove the tough outer layer and any leaves. As for complementary flavors, garlic, ginger and/or mustard seeds come to mind.

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seriously : don't you have to wear sturdy shoes in a commercial kitchen so you don't drop a knife and chop off your toes?

Heather Shorter: I do not cook in a commercial kitchen barefoot.

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Using recipes to cook for one: or even for two, can be difficult. But I've never done any math to get it right. I just use recipes as inspiration for ingredients to combine and for cooking times. I've only had a few real disasters - usually things turn out well. It's fun to experiment, and I make notes right in my books, as suggested in the article.

Joe: Good. You're a kindred spirit.

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Alexandria, Va.: Help Rangers! My boyfriend's birthday is next week and as an early surprise gift I'm making him a picnic dinner on Monday. I also want to take advantage of the last weekend of summer before work craziness starts up again. Unfortunately, I have not the slightest idea of what to make that requires no reheating and can keep well in a refrigerator overnight. I've already made him my standard pasta salad and salami sandwich, but I want to make it a little more special than that. Any recipe suggestions immediately jump to mind? Thanks so much for your help!

Bonnie: This tastes like summer -- or what's left of it: Poached Shrimp With Lime-Ginger Corn Salad. Be sure to keep the shrimp in a separate container till you're ready to serve.

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Springfield, VA: My husband has always wanted to find pickled watermelon rind like his grandmother used to make. The problem has been that every commercial variety he has tried has been soft and he craves the crisp firm type from his childhood. The recipe that you included in today's paper indicated that the rind should be cooked for about two hours until it is fork-tender. Can we achieve the result my husband craves if we simply cook the rind for a shorter time?

Joe: Indeed, I would think that would work perfectly. Just blanch it rather than long-cook it...

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dining alone: although I married at a very late age, I'm happy I never got into a rut with eating cereal or crackers alone for dinner. I'd steam rice and veggies for a very quick, effortless, yet healthy meal, spiced up. You can always do something yummy with avocados, pasta, tomatoes, fresh herbs, tortillas, so that it's thrown together but savorable.

Bonnie: And I'm sure there are lots more like you out there. Keep up the good nutrition.

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Richmond, VA: I bought some beautiful tall cobalt jars from the thrift store and decided to put olive oil in them along with some stalks of basil and rosemary from my herb garden.

How long does it take for the oil to become infused with the flavor from the herbs?

Melissa McCart: If you're doing it at room temperature, about two weeks, and it will keep for about a month, refrigerated. With other oils, it would last closer to two.

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Arlington, Va S: Mostarda... that brings back memories (I spent several formative years near Milan and go back annually), though your recipe looks very unfamiliar. I'm used to seeing whole or large pieces of fruit in the syrup rather than a puree.

That being said, it's about the worst tasting thing I've ever put in my mouth. All the relatives like it though. Not sure what it is, I like mustard although I've never thought it tasted anything like mustard seed. I like sweet and sour contrasts (my uncle and aunt make a great cippoline onion recipe alla agrodolce - sweet and sour). Perhaps I've always had one of the variants you've mentioned?

Joe: You really should try this one -- I thought it was delicious. And I know what you mean about others. Commercial version I've seen were just horrible. This watermelon mostarda is still chunky/rough-textured, and has a delightfully complex, sweet/sour flavor.

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Pickling: We'll pickle anything in the south. (Including ourselves.) I love pickled okra and I have also had pickled yellow squash, which was delicious.

Heather Shorter: Pickled okra is delicious, especially if you can find really fresh, young okra at a farmer's market.

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Washington, DC: My beef with things like pickled beans, or specialty pickles like fiddlehead ferns is that they no longer taste like the original vegetable. All you taste is the pickling liquid. And too often that is just boring.

Heather Shorter: That's not always true, especially if the vegetables are not overcooked before being added to the liquid. For instance, my pickled green beans are flavored but still taste like beans.
Preserving techniques were developed long before refrigeration, in order to be able to eat something past the season for "fresh," and they almost always change the character of what is being preserved.

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Texas: My favorite pickles are from the villages of my home country of Bangladesh. Since I don't go back very often, I like to get my pickled hot mangoes, or hot lime "achars" from the Indian stores here. I'm amazed over the years how many different types are now available.

Heather Shorter: There are a multitude! I love Indian/Bangladeshi pickles, and would like to experiment more with those flavors and techniques.

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"piccadilly" relish: Never heard of it, but what's described in the article is "piccalilli." Is this some regional spelling variation, or creative editing on the part of the Food Section?

Melissa McCart: Piccalilli. My bad.

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Joe: Well, our lids have sealed and we've spent at least 3 weeks in a dry, cool place, so you know what that means -- we're done!
Thanks, Heather, Melissa and David, for helping us out today, and thanks, chatters, for the great questions as always.
Now for giveaways: The chatter who asked about pickled eggs will get "Putting Up." The Philly chatter who posted about cooking for one (and gave us a Roman chicken recipe link) will get "Going Solo in the Kitchen." And the Petworth chatter who provided that salt/vinegar chicken recipe will get "Cuisines of the Axis of Evil." Just send your info to food@washpost.com, and we'll get them to you.
Until next time, happy pickling, eating and reading.

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