Last spring my mother sold her house in suburban Greenville, South Carolina, and moved out to the country. How country? There's a grizzled old plum in the yard, a wild blackberry patch out back and—Heaven's blessing—half a dozen persimmon trees in the thicket.
My first visit there was last Fourth of July, when Mom told she was getting married again. I already knew something was up, because she hadn't been calling as much as usual, and when she did, she would kind of quickly mention that she had been away for the weekend with "a friend." She didn't say Rhonda, or Jane or anyone else I know—and I know all of them. It was just "a friend." I'm old enough to catch the meaning of that kind of friend.
No kitchen work today. I went to Lora Zarubin's cabin in Laurel Canyon for crabs and slaw, and it turned into an all-day affair.
Lunch was heaven: six of us, 10 fat dungeness crabs (brought by Valerie and Stan) and, oh, probably 10 bottles of wine, including Lora's selection of gorgeous California chardonnays (Heitz, Melville, Ramey, an amazing 1998 Stony Hill), that flew in the face of my every snobbish preconception about flabby, over-oaked California whites. I staggered home at five o'clock for a little siesta and woke up 3 hours later, just as the sun was setting. Happy Fifth of July.
I got 10 bunches of little onions on Wednesday at the SMFM. The next day Claire and I went for a hike, and she said out of the blue: "I know what I want you to pickle next—onions." Then this morning Beatrice said her favorite pickles are onions. What do you know? The 10 bunches made three pints of pickles which I just took out of the hot-water bath. One for each of us.
This is what the brined cucumbers look like after 5 days.
They started to ferment at 3 days. I tasted one and it was delicious—a nice crunch and a haunting dill flavor—but clearly not quite there yet.
On day 4 the surface of the brine was covered with a delicate scum that looks like crepe paper made from spider silk. I skimmed it and it returned within 24 hours.
On day 6, today, the fermentation seems to have slowed (fewer bubbles) and the cucumbers now look pickled—olive green instead of the fresh green. I'll jar them tomorrow.
Last year about this time, I got a handful of garlic from Windrose Farm, my favorite stand at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer's Market. (Their potatoes and onions are the best you can get.) I was pretty surprised by it: even garlic is noticeably better when you get it fresh as opposed to buying it at the grocery store. A week later I went back to get more but, alas, the entire crop had already sold out.
This Wednesday, Windrose had the first of the new garlic harvest, and I thought it prudent to stockpile. Lincoln from Windrose said that if you wrap it in paper towels and store it in tupperware containers, it will last "for months."
I got five pounds, which I swaddled in paper towels, bundled in brown paper and laid it down in those plastic under-bed storage bins you can get at The Container Store.
Here's the last of my apricot work for the year. I'm sorry to be done with it, but the seasons are changing fast, and it's time to get on to peaches.
You know the concept of the cook's treat? That's the tasty bit the cook gets to put aside for himself as a kitchen prerogative, something to eat while standing at the stove or when cleaning up after the guests have left—the soft bits of carrot and chicken at the bottom of the stock pot or the charred scrap of fat left after slicing a roast.