Monday, April 18, 2011

The Expat's Guide to Pickles

To me, a good sandwich isn't really complete without a couple hearty dills on the side, even if it's made with the typically smaller sized sliced bread that only seems to be available in Latin America. But far outweighing the lack of large sandwiches are the horrible imposters posing as pickles in Colombian supermarkets.

"Pepinillos en vinagre," or pickles in vinegar are just that, except without a hint of dill or spice or sweetness; the mere fact that they are passing these things off as pickles seems a great deception. If you go to a supermarket in the US, you can find a variety of differently styled and flavored pickles: dills and sweets,  bread and butter, spears, kosher dills and my favorite garlic: aka "Bubbies" brand.

So, looked up a few recipes online and decided to make them myself. Much like pickles in Colombia, mason jars are nowhere to be found, so after a month long quest that ended with me searching down back alley recycle spots in the Centro, I came up with several gallon jars. Making pickles is kind of like making beer in that you need to sterilize everything so nothing goes wrong during the fermentation process. This meant finding an 6 gallon stew pot to boil the gallon jars and lids in. My biggest problem was finding picking cucumbers, which didn't seem to exist until I found some at the last minute (and have yet to see them again). I used smaller regular cucumbers, which didn't really hold up at all for either of my recipes, which sucks because I was really looking forward to some Bubbies-type garlic dills.

I sliced a few of the non-pickling cucumbers up into smaller containers, which seemed to hold up better than the wholes, which just turned to mush. However, the gallon jars with the pickling cucumbers was a resounding success! The pickles turned out a little sweeter and saltier than I like them, but still, many times better than any sorry excuse passing for a pickle in an EXITO (Colombian Supermarket). So if you are living abroad and are having the same problem, check out this recipe (except use maybe half of the salt) and sandwich time won't be such a sad and nostalgic experience.

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