There’s always something important I seem to forget to do when jamming- sanitize the ladle, buy a funnel so that the jam doesn’t drip over the lip of the jar, mix the calcium with the water, or stir the pectin in with the fruit in the beginning so that there aren’t huge chunks floating around with the peaches at the end. And since I only do it once or twice a year, every year I forget the same things. A buddy system would be a key, but most times my friends with jam experience aren’t always available the weekend I happen to find a flat of FrogHollow peaches at a discount.
Because I’m a little nervous about the jam dripping over the lip of jar because I forgot to buy a funnel last year (and the year before), and don’t quite understand how to wipe it off the lip (if everything needs to be sanitized, can you use a cloth, a paper towel to wipe it, or would you be endangering your jam gift-tees with paper towel lint bacteria??? Really, I want to know), I keep jamming casual- at least the first time I attempt it every year. Luckily, I have friends who are willing to take jars of sweet fruity goodness from me with specific directions- “refrigerate and eat within two months.” It’s kind of a bossy a gift, but hey, it’s still delicious jam!
Considering my issues with jamming, one might understand why I have a fear of real pickling. That sh#*$’s serious. I had family members who were willing to show me the ropes (Aunt Becky and Teresa, here’s looking at you), but the large amount of canning equipment necessary frightened me. Knowing that you had to have that much special equipment, be even more sanitization-minded than with jamming, and then also consider how to balance differences in acidity and water content in vegetables gave me chills and visions of impending bacterial contamination takeover.
So the way I roll with pickles? Quickly! With quick pickles! Or, with quickles, as my friend Abby named them. With quickles, you only have to pickle them, let them sit overnight, and then they’re good to go in your fridge for a couple months. I can handle that.
Now the cheesy part-
Ever since I’ve noticed the balance that a tangy, lightly tart pickle offere to a piece of rich cheese, I’ve been in love with the coupling. The acid in the pickle offers a bright contrast to the concentrated umami and fat content of an aged cheese. And as has been proven for centuries with the ploughman’s lunch, pickles and Cheddar fancy each other’s company. I’ve paired these sweet pickles with Fiscalini and Montgomery Cheddar, rich semi-soft cheeses like Abbaye-de-Belloc, and even fresh goat cheese. These pickles, fresh chèvre, on a pulled pork on a sandwich? Yeah, I’d eat one of those.
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 ¼ cup white sugar
3 star anise
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 whole allspice
1 ¼ lb apricots
Have 3 small mason jars cleaned and ready to fill.
In a medium sized saucepan, stir together the vinegar, sugar, anise, mustard and allspice. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir vigorously, lower the heat, and simmer for ten minutes. Add the apricots to the simmering water, and let cook for five to seven more minutes until the fruit is lightly softened.
Turn of the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fruit from the pan and nestle into the jars. Tap the bottom of the jar against a countertop lightly to settle the fruit. Return the pickling liquid to the pan and bring once more to a boil, then simmer for five more minutes. Pour the liquid and the spices over the fruit in the jars, and let sit for at least twelve hours before eating.