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Bread & Butter Pickles – One of the Great Depression’s Greatest Hits

During the Great Depression, sandwiches weren’t quite what they are today. Forget about choice of aioli, or did you want roast tri tip or smoked turkey; back then it was more like, “Did you want cucumbers in your sandwich, or nothing in your sandwich?” Okay, cucumbers it is.

At the end of summer, the excess “cuc” crop was sliced, salted, pickled, and put up in jars for the cold, lean months ahead. If you thought summer Depression-era sandwiches sucked, it was much worse in winter, when you couldn’t even find a bland vegetable to slap between your slices of buttered bread.

I can just imagine what a treat it must have been to fill a sandwich with these sweet crunchy coins, or “bread and butter pickles,” as they came to be known. I’m sure it was a wonderful break from what must have been a fairly flavorless existence. Happily, times are a bit better now, and we only make these because they taste really good.

So, make a batch, experience a little piece of American culinary history, and as you’re tossing them on that burger, think back to what those days must have been like. I mean, especially with no YouTube! I hope you give these bread & butter pickles  a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 2 pints:
2 lbs pickling or other firm, little cucumbers
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
2 red jalapeno pepper, sliced
3 tbsp kosher salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups white distilled vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, sliced

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Christmas Hamlets – To Eat or Not to Eat Will Not Be a Question

I had been fantasizing for weeks about doing a whole,
home-cured ham for the holidays. I always get lots of requests for this kind of
thing, and was fully prepared to give it a go, but then a strange thing
happened, I heard the word “Hamlet.” 

It was on TV, and completely unrelated to
cured pork, but for whatever reason the word made me think of cute little,
individually sized hams. That’s all it took, and off I went trying to figure out how
to make this thing happen. I knew I wanted a process that wouldn’t require the
pink curing salts used in commercially produced hams, not because they are
unhealthy, they’re not, but because it would be hard for some of you to find.

I’ve read things in the past about using celery’s naturally
occurring nitrates to accomplish the same thing, so that’s what I used, and as
you’ll hear me say several times in the video, I was thrilled with the results!
While not exactly like a classic city ham, this was very close. The firm, moist
texture was great, the salt level was spot on, and since we used loin instead
of leg, there’s even a little less fat.

I’m afraid I won’t be able to help much with questions about
how to do this with bigger or different cuts, as this was my first foray into
home-cured ham, so if you are going to attempt this, please go to a good
butcher to get the exact same size “chops” that I used. If you do, and follow
these simple steps, I think you will have a holiday meal “to die for.” Sorry, but you didn’t expect me to do this entire post without one forced reference to
the play, did you? Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Hamlets:
4 thick-cut (10-12 oz) center cut, boneless pork loin
For the brine:
1/2 cup *kosher salt plus 1 tablespoon
(*if using fine table salt, you’d only need barely 1/3 cup)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp finely ground black pepper
1 tsp allspice
1/2 ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups boiling water to dissolve salt and sugar
3 celery stalks (about 2 cups chopped)
1/2 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 cups cold water to puree vegetables in blender, plus add
enough cold water to make 2 quarts total volume of brine
Brine for 48 hours before roasting

For the glaze:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
pinch of cayenne
whole cloves as needed

Roast at 325 degrees F. until an internal temp of 145
degrees F. is reached.

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