Fourth of July is the one day of the year when pickles are prominently featured among menu items, one day when pickles are not just eaten but lingered over, examined, discussed, and debated.
Is sugar appropriate in the brining liquid? Is garlic an obligation of faith or a detour from the true path? And what about pickled artichokes, cauliflower, onions, carrots, or odd Japanese vegetables like gobo (burdock root), lotus root, or seaweed?
Yesterday David reported confidently that the secret ingredient in Murray’s Sturgeon Shop’s tuna salad is a splash of pickle juice.
(Mr. Henry hopes he has not revealed one of Murray’s closely held proprietary secrets inadvertently landing himself in a legal pickle. Mr. Henry, you see, is not represented by counsel, nor does he wish to contest a court action from an injured party. The above was revealed in innocence, Murray, as part of a think piece about pickles and America on the Fourth of July. Have a heart, Murray, can’t you? It could all just be rumor, anyway.)
Like all true pickle eaters, Mrs. Henry holds strong opinions on the subject. At Recipe, a new restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue, Mrs. Henry thought the pickled artichoke had sat too long. Its crunch was gone.
When Mrs. Henry pickles, she pickles for a day or two, not more. Her pickled cabbage becomes a military exercise for mastication muscles and back molars as well as a sharp, crisp cleansing for the tongue.
Mr. Henry’s favorite pickling liquid is sushi vinegar, a sugared vinegar required for proper sushi rice. Every so often in a sauce pan over a mild flame she dissolves ¾ cup of sugar into a bottle of white vinegar. The apartment smells pickley for hours.
Although Mr. Henry has been instructed repeatedly to leave that bottle alone, he confesses to using its contents with regularity. Add a splash of cold sushi vinegar to freshly sliced salted cucumbers and instantly you get a pickle to rival any vegetable or condiment.
It may not be what Americans remember as traditional, but it’s better than those squishy green things in the bottle.