Joy comes to you in many ways. I find joy in lots of things- my family, spending time with Jay, cooking, baking, gardening, my pets (especially when they’re all cuddly & sleepy), fashion magazines, a nice cup of high quality coffee with cream & sugar, the color of the leaves in the fall, the smell of fresh herbs being chopped, walking through a museum, a summer rain, the J. Crew catalog coming in the mail, drinking a good bottle of wine, the smell of fresh oranges being sliced, Lola, anything Le Creuset, my new ‘as-yet-unnamed’ digital KitchenAid hand mixer, vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting, beautiful well-done tattoos, watching movies, a delicious dark chocolaty stout, sleeping late in freshly laundered sheets, eating a good meal of greasy pub food, a new pair of menswear-style pajamas, Central Park in the spring, shopping for handbags & shoes & lingerie & kitchen gadgets… and lots more. I find joy in writing about things I find joy in, apparently. I even find joy in buying produce. Probably because I buy most things with a specific idea of what I’m using it for, so I’m already excited & looking forward to it. But more so than that, I just like the colors of the fruits & vegetables, the shiny finish or rough textures, the irregularities, the perfection. It’s always an exciting trip, that trip to the fruit market or farmer’s market. And now that cucumber season is here, that means pickling, which also excites me & brings me joy. Mainly because my pickles are the most requested item I make next to cupcakes. And people are always asking for more, more, more; whether it’s more of new & different kinds or just more of the regular old kind. I don’t like pickles, myself, but it’s a perfect example of creating things just because people I love enjoy them.
Another thing that brings me joy? The smell of a charcoal grill.
There’s nothing like that smell. Gas grills may be great and all, but my heart will always belong to charcoal. You can’t get the same flavor on a gas grill, carcinogens be damned. Now… you’ve heard of fried pickles, surely. I even posted a recipe for them myself. Those are a slightly fattier & more decadent delight than these. These, they’re different. These pickles are pickles that are grilled, not fried, but they aren’t grilled after they’re pickled. They’re grilled before.
Basically, you wash & slice your cukes & onions, then grill them. Let them cool, then jar ‘em up. What you end up with is an amazingly different pickle. The charbroiled pickle… sorta. I got the idea & basic recipe from an article over at Serious Eats. What I did, though, was I grilled a jalapeno & added it in to two of the jars as well. I thought maybe that would add a totally different flavor profile to it than just the crushed red pepper. For the other jar, I just left it at about a ¼ teaspoon-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
The coolest thing though is that they don’t have to be processed. You can make these into refrigerator pickles, too! So don’t be scared to try them. And unlike me, don’t be scared to leave them on long enough to get really good grill marks. I was so worried they’d burn, my marks were a little weak. Eh. Whatever.
GRILLED PICKLES (adapted from a recipe created by Chris Lilly posted on Serious Eats)
Makes about 3 one-pint jars
- 1 ¼ cups distilled white vinegar, 5%
- 1 ¼ cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 3 small jalapeno peppers (or 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, as called for in the original recipe)
- 5 large cucumbers, cut into 4 to 5-inch spears
- 1 medium white onion, cut into ½-inch disks and skewered horizontally
- 6 sprigs dill
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt (and red pepper if using), whisking until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes.
- Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place cucumbers, onions & peppers on grill. Cook cucumbers until lightly browned on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Cook onions until charred on both sides and slightly softened, about 4 minutes per side. Cook jalapenos just until they “blister” a little. Remove to tray. Allow to cool. Quarter onions.
- Place 2 sprigs of dill and 1 teaspoon of garlic in each jar. Divide cucumbers and onions equally between each jar. Pour in pickling liquid, leaving ½”-inch of headroom between liquid and top of jar. Refrigerate for 1-2 days before eating for quick pickles, or process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes to seal lids, then store in a cool, dark place.
When you open the jar, you’re hit with a smell of smoke. You really wouldn’t believe it, but the smokiness overpowers the dill and the vinegar! It smells like a charcoal grill in a jar. On that note let me say that if you have a gas grill, I don’t think the flavor or odor will be anything like this. You might get great grill-marks, but I don’t think you’ll get the smokiness you get with a charcoal grill. And if you’re one of those expert smoker people, then maybe using different kinds of wood as well can get you different flavors & smells. Same goes for using different peppers. Try a Serrano, or if you’re daring, try a Habanero for a crazy-hot smokiness.
I’d like to try these in different ways- maybe made with apple cider vinegar or maybe some booze. I’d even like to try a grilled Giardiniera, or grilled zucchini pickles. I really think this idea is kinda genius for summertime. A jar of these & a jar of that Guinness barbecue sauce would make any dad happy on Father’s Day, don’t you think?