In a Pickle

Some may say the family is a basic building block of society, nests that nurture civility and tolerance, but we all know they’re vulgar hotbeds of contention. If you’re lucky and manage to stay out of court most of the time, the strife is petty, like the genetic tempest in a teapot I created over–-of all things–-pickled peaches.

We’d been having a carefree back-and-forth online discussion on our family website about a traditional holiday meal when I oh-so-casually mentioned that a cold plate featuring stuffed celery, trimmed green onions, black olives, and pickled peaches always appeared on our table. The pit hit the fan when a younger relative professed that she had no idea what pickled peaches were, much less what they taste like, to which I expressed what they obviously considered an excessive degree of shock and dismay.

Before I could sit sideways to assess my position, I was in a pickle myself. Another young cousin called “Mr. High-and-Mighty,” another chimed in with “a snooty old fart”, and after that it was a “jump on Jesse” free-for-all. Confident in my legendary modesty and self-effacement, I managed to remain calm for about 30 seconds before surrendering to my base nature and giving them a generous piece of my mind.

Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

Pickled peaches are perfect for any holiday table or used as you might any canned peach in cobblers, cakes or for ice cream. Select the smallest fresh cling peaches you can find. It doesn’t matter if they’re a little bit green; in fact, you shouldn’t use peaches that are soft and ripe enough to eat out of hand because they tend to fall apart when moved.

Wash peaches, drop them in briskly boiling water for about a minute or two to loosen the skins, and peel. For every four pounds of peaches, combine 3 cups sugar and 2 cups vinegar, add two pieces of stick cinnamon broken into 2-inch pieces and two teaspoons whole cloves.

Heat to bubbling. Pack peaches into sterilized quart jars, add hot spiced syrup (with water if needed) seal tightly, and process for 10 minutes. Wait a week before serving.

Refrigerator Pickles

Chances are you know a master canner who owes their vast and celebrated successes to a procedural mojo that carries with it an annoying smidge of smugness.

These domestic deities take justifiable pride in their product. At any county fair, you’ll find home canned goods with an astonishing range and degree of artisanship.  Competition is psychotic.

Fortunately for us mere mortals, there’s a quick, delicious alternative to the sort of home canning that requires humongous pots and hubris. All you need for refrigerator pickles are a jar or two, running water, and a refrigerator.

Supermarket vegetables are unsuitable. Pack 6 cups sliced cucumbers and 1 cup sliced onion into quart jars. Heat a cup of vinegar with a cup of sugar, and a tablespoon of salt. I like a little black pepper. Pour over cucumber mix. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for a couple of days before serving. These will keep for a week or so.