Pickling is certainly not new, it’s hard to even figure out the origins of pickling and preserving for it seems humans have been trying to preserve their food …well forever. Maybe. Some of the finest pickles I have ever eaten aren’t Southern at all, though my first taste of them might have been. Long gone, Browdy’s Delicatessen in Mountain Brook, Alabama gave me my first taste of a real Kosher pickle- cucumber and green tomatoes were pickled with such skill that I can still recall how wonderful they were… Carnegie and Katz’ Delis in New York City came close though. Still. What is unique to Southern Picklin’ isn’t about how to pickle but what we pickle in the South. Everything you see on this plate, for instance can and has been pickled!
The array of what we pickle and preserve makes its way to almost every meal. The Center Plate, the Relish Tray, the glistening bowls of Pickled Peaches, Pickled Peppers or deep red Crabapples just make a meal look extra special. And for the ordinary meals, the bottles of dressings and sauces we’ve all come to expect to season everything from barbeque to seafood to lowly fresh or cooked greens, the toppings for biscuits and cornbread could have their origins in the isolation and poverty prevalent from the late 1800’s through the Great Depression until after World War II, in the 1940’s. Until then, food was often scarce and what there was of it couldn’t be wasted- pickling provided a way to extend foodstuffs and create a variety of flavors to otherwise monotonous meals.
And this could be unique to the southeastern corner of the United States- southerners will pickle almost anything and everything, in salt, sour, sugar, spicy…hot! or a blend of several notes! I cannot possibly name every kind of things we pickle, but here is an astounding list:
- Beets, Baby Corn and Quail Eggs and any other egg too!
- Shrimp, Green Beans, Peppers of all kinds!
- Okra, Peaches, Watermelon Rind- oh yes that’s right!
- Pickled Pig’s Lips and Pig’s Feet too! (no, I haven’t eaten either but I do have a recipe for both!)
- Cucumbers, Green Tomatoes, Summer Squash and Blackeyed Peas!
I’m sure that’s just getting started on a much longer list in my region of the country. I have to mention one mix of pickled vegetables because we call it – Hurricane Mix… eaten in copious amounts one summer at the beach, when we were almost caught in a hurricane … because of time and circumstances, we still call it that! The mixture has it’s origins in the Caribbean and is commonly known as jardinière pickles- filled with cauliflower, peppers, carrots, onions and garlic. There’s a similar mix from Italian kitchens too, but to us- it’s just Hurricane Mix! When refrigeration became widely available, Southern Cooks took the chilling process as a great advantage; instead of the arduous and lengthy process of processing in the old time way- Refrigerator Pickles became one of our favorite ways to make sure we could have all of those wonderful and varied flavors on our dinner tables! Most refrigerator pickles will stay fresh at least 3 weeks (some indefinitely) and take just a few hours or days to make!
It’s not unusual to see this type of pickle on our favorite vegetable or lunch plates- even a Bloody Mary with a pickled green bean, a large shrimp, pickled okra, brown sugar bacon and a hot pepper is a simply gorgeous drink- spiked or not! So refreshing with spicy tomato juice, a generous amount of lemon juice and rimmed with salt! Probably our all time favorite refrigerator pickle here at Camellia’s Cottage is Pickled Beets! Almost no cooking at all. A variation is made with the addition of fresh cucumber slices, the flavor is subtly changed, but is just as delicious. Here’s how to make:
Camellia’s Pickled Beets
- You will need: one 15oz. can of Sliced Beets one yellow or sweet onion sliced and separated one cup of white or apple cider vinegar.
- Open can of sliced beets, drain well. Slice onion and separate into individual rings or pieces.
- Put drained beets and onion in a medium size bowl or jar that has a lid.
- Heat vinegar to a gentle boil.
- Carefully pour over beets and onions, gently tossing. (If there is not enough vinegar, you may need to boil a bit more.)
- When cooled, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Serve on a lettuce cup, if the meal is special- otherwise just load it on the plate!
- Makes 6-8 servings.
- *Variation: Thinly slice a cup of fresh young cucumber and add to the beets and onions before pouring hot vinegar over- increase vinegar by 1/4 cup or more.
Pickled or Preserved…this is the way the South makes any meal sing out sweet, spicy or sour notes in such a beautiful way! One of the best grace notes we can think of!
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine. *Cajun Chef® is a registered product used at Ruby Slipper Cafe’s breakfasts and their loaded Bloody Mary-Ruby Slipper Café -yum! Pickled green beans! Find Ruby Slipper at www.rubyslippercafe.net
*Old South Watermelon Pickles® have been made since 1947 in Alma, Arkansas and are wonderful drained, wrapped with bacon, baked until bacon is crisp- served as an appetizer. Even the renowned food writer, Julia Reed, a native of Mississippi, recommends this appetizer. She is a contributor to Vogue® Magazine and most recently, Garden and Gun® magazine!
*We’re mighty proud of Wickles Pickles® are made right here in Dadeville, Alabama! Their pickled okra is delicious- in fact, their complete line of pickles is wonderful!
*This is not a paid advertisement- it’s just good eating! and reading, too!