Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pickle juice for the vegetarian's soul

I bloody love gherkins, me. I've said it before, and I'll no doubt say it again.

The best ones I've ever tasted were home-pickled by my late Jewish grandmother. Proper Jewish gherkins are done in brine rather than vinegar, and hers were also heavy on dill, peppercorns, garlic and chilli. They were like heaven in a four inch crunch.

Had I had an iota of foresight as a 22 year old, when I last saw her, I would be blowing my unsuspecting friends' tastebuds out in her memory to this day. But you know what, I never got the recipe. And you can't get the cucumbers round here either, so maybe that's for the best.

The local Asian grocer carries a fine tinned kosher brine pickle, but it's slightly on the salty and yellow side. Jars are best. I mostly opt for Turkish pickles as they are sour and salty rather than vinegary and sweet, and Russian ones are also OK. I cruise the multiethnic delicatessens of the Cowley Road and make my pickle choices carefully.*

And so it was that after plumbing last night I came home to an empty house with a spring in my step and tuna-noodle-gherkin anticipation on my mind. It's a solitary pleasure, but I like to indulge my inner introvert when I get the chance.

Tuna: check. Noodle: check. Gherkin: fuck. It was a new jar, of a previously untasted Turkish brand, and I could not get it open.

I biffed the lid of the jar on the work surface, neatly, all the way round. I tried again. Nope. I ran the lid under hot water. Nope. I tried extra grip with a tea towel. Nope. I turned away so the jar would drop its defences and then threw myself at it unexpectedly and twisted so hard I pulled a muscle in my neck. Nope.

Repeated steps 1-4 above. Nada.

Got out my special plumbing pump pliers and had a go with them. Too small. Like my hands. Cursed stupid hands and stupid pliers.

Carried jar to front door, flung door open and wondered how many of my neighbours I a) know well enough to call on at 9.45 pm and b) are likely to have bigger hands and/or stronger wrists than me. Decided none in the immediate vicinity. Closed front door.

Put jar down, decided there had to be more to life than gherkins, and that they could be substituted with some of the fresh organic vegetables delivered only that morning. Rootled through veg box, emerged with courgette (any passing resemblance to a gherkin surely pure coincidence).

Said 'but I don't *want* a fucking courgette', and snatched up recalcitrant gherkin jar.

Final desperate wrench burst jar open, covering me and everything in the immediate vicinity with dill-saturated pickle juice while I shouted 'yes Yes YES' like that stupid shampoo advert. Maybe it just took her half an hour to get the lid off the bottle.

The gherkins were worth it. When M came home I recounted my exciting pickle adventures. Hmm, he said, I wondered what the smell was.


* Another criterion is how useful the jar will be afterwards. Most of our storage jars still smell faintly of gherkins: fine for lentils, but slightly disturbing for sultanas.


Anonymous jonathan said...

Gherkins? I bloody love them an'all- I will go months on end without even thinking about them, then suddenly be consumed by an urgent desire, and buy one of those massive jars you get at the supermarket you have got me feeling those familiar urges again, maybe a trip to the Turkish delicatessen will be in order on the way home...

This is a very funny and well-written blog you have here by the way Joella.... I happened across you via your 'Billy Idol' comment over at Free Man in Preston and have just spent a happy twenty minutes reading your stories of plumbing (hey we could do with a plumber!), sheets, shirts,and whatever else... got to get back to work now but will be sure to be back!

2:49 pm  
Blogger Jo said...

*beam* Thank you! And it is always good to make contact with another gherkin fan... it's a minority interest, I find, and this is quite wrong.

12:41 am  

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