In a Different Kind of Pickle

I haven’t talked much about the garden this year because, well, it’s still a bit painful to consider. Between late freezes, multiple re-plantings and the abundance of grasshoppers, the yield was less than spectacular. I especially missed out on the cucumbers which, of course, I planted extra since my experiments with refrigerator pickles last year met with some success. But no cucumbers this year.

But I ran across zucchinis at the market and I remembered that Alton Brown had mentioned that you could pickle pretty much anything and a quick search yielded this recipe for Zuni Style Zucchini Pickles. Sounds interesting other than the full cup of sugar for the recipe but the mustard and the turmeric were sound choices rather than using traditional pickling spice mixes. The mixes are fine but you get caged to a certain flavor profile and really can’t make too many adjustments. But still the full cup of refined sugar is difficult to justify. I think that one of Alton Brown’s recipes has at most a quarter cup of sugar for the bread and butter version.

Then I discovered coconut sugar and although it’s a bit more expensive, it’s not like I’m going to make pickles all the time. One good batch and you have jars of pickles in the fridge for a while. So the expense might be worth it especially if I cut the amount used back a little. A brine really can be messed with in terms of ingredients as long as your liquid to salt ratio stays somewhat the same and even that can fluctuate a bit.

But what about coconut sugar? Does it taste like coconut? I’m not a fan really unless copious amounts of chocolate are involved.  Fortunately, just like most coconut cooking oils, the flavor was not to be found. Coconut sugar tastes like sugar and this brandmeasures one for one. As far how it affects the diet I’ll just have to experiment and see. But if it works out then this could be the solution for some holiday treats and eats. Especially for peanut butter cookies. But dessert is still dessert and resides in the realms of moderation and one has to be careful with any kind of sucrose or glucose in terms of how it can affect your health. Just because it’s not white, refined sugar from sugar cane does not mean it’s fine to eat it by the spoon full. It still can and will affect your insulin levels, your metabolism and energy levels. But for the occasional treat and as an ingredient in recipes, I’m betting coconut sugar is a better option that the white, refined stuff.

So I tried the Zuni recipe matching it pretty closely, cutting back on the sugar and adding jalapenos and onions and it worked very well. Very hot, very sweet and the zucchinis taste just like pickles. Pretty awesome although I could cut back the sugar even more and it would be fine.

Which got me to thinking. Lunches are still a challenge. I can throw some rice noodles in one of my lidded ceramic pots

and eat simple but the addition of vegetables would always be welcome. But cooking and long term storage will always be a problem unless you pickle some squash and zucchini in various mixes and have them in the fridge to add to noodles and broth as needed.  In this case I think I would drop the sugar content down to a quarter cup and maybe add garlic or even experiment with other ingredients. Add some pickle juice to the broth and you might get close to a hot and sour soup.

And as usual, one experiment is going to lead to a list of projects.  Pottery-wise, I want to look at making spring lidded crocks for pickles. Sounds challenging and fun.

And it is a worthy experiment if it makes lunches more interesting. There is enough wiggle room for some variety to stave off boredom.

For convenience, here is the link to the Zuni Style recipe and below is the video from the master himself. I think I’ve said before that if you want to know how to cook, watch Alton Brown:

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