Garden Diary - September 2017

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At Bouman Stickney Farmstead Museum - A Traditional Pickle
Sunday, 10 September 2017

Another historical culinary event at the Bouman Stickney Farmstead Museum in Readington Township, New Jersey. Pickling, this time, using what we call cucumbers and were, back then, named cowcumbers.

Susan McLellan Plaisted of Hearth to Home
reviews the receipt.

Ingredients and supplies all lined up.

The basic recipe is familiar, terminology is different.

Choose nice cowcumbers
Let stand for 30 minutes in a pickle of
water and two handfuls of salt

The receipt speaks of the salt and water as a pickle. I think of it as a brine.

Remove, place in colander and gently rinse with water.

This is also different from most other recipes because it does not
call for a pickle (salt & water) strong enough to float a fresh egg.
Also, the cowcumber soak for 30 minutes rather than 24 or 48 hours

Have white wine vinegar heating near fire on the hearth.
Layer cowcumbers in crock with thinly sliced horseradish,

Horseradish plant. It is the roots, scraped and sliced that are used.

and also whole peppercorns, whole cloves, some mace, chopped fennel fronds, and bay leaves

Pour hot vinger over the layers of cowcumbers and seasonings.

then seal the crock with a pig's bladder. An aside from Susan: Mice may gnaw
through the pig bladder. A second layer, of leather, will protect against this.

Susan demonstrates how to inflate a soaked pig's bladder.
More difficult, she says, than blowing up balloons. If you can
find a pig's bladder to begin with, that is. Not easy these days.

This receipt for quick pickled cowcumbers means they are ready
in a week but are not suitable for long term storage all winter.
Perhaps because the vinegar pickle is not poured off daily,
reheated, and then returned to vessel, intensifying the pickle.

A week ago Susan had prepared a batch
of these - as the receipt names them -
most delicious cowcumber pickles
so we could sample them.

For modern tastes these were very sour. Modern receipes, even for sour pickles, have some sugar to temper the sharpness. Consider, though, their diet, back then. Fatty meat, salted and brined meat, few vegetables in winter. The crisp, sharp, bite of these most delicious cowcumbers would have been a welcome tonic.

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