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26 June 2012

Recipe: Bread & Butter Pickles

Many of us enjoy a home garden. There is just something special about growing your own food. If your as lucky as we are, and live in a very fertile area, then you are up to your ears in produce already. My most abundant crop? Cucumbers. Now while The Girl can eat them raw with a little pimento cheese, I prefer pickling. Here is a recent recipe that has proved to be a bid hit!

What you will need:
2.5 pounds pickling cucumbers (Fresh from the garden or market)
1 pound white or yellow onions, THIN sliced
1/4 cup pickling salt (Can substitute Kosher, but NEVER table salt)
1  1/4 cup white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
2  1/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp dried ground lemongrass
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (omit if heat adverse)
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon tumaric
Whole allspice
Whole cloves
Canning equipment

After cleaning the cucumbers, slice the ends off and discard. Slice the remainder into 1/4 inch thick slices and place in a large bowl. Add sliced onions and pickling salt, stir to ensure equal coverage. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel, and fill with several inches of ice. Place in refrigerator to chill for 4 hours. Discard ice, rinse and drain twice.

If you are planning to store your pickles outside of the refrigerator for any length of time, you will need to sterilize your jars before canning, and heat the filled jars in a hot water bath after canning. If you are planning to eat the pickles right away and store them the whole time in the fridge, you can skip the water bath step. It's still a good idea to sterilize the jars first, you can do that by running them throughout the dishwasher, or place them in a 200 F oven for 10 minutes.  To sterilize the jars for canning, place empty jars on a metal rack in a large, 16-qt canning pot (jars must rest on the rack, not the bottom of the pot). Fill with warm water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to warm to keep jars hot and ready for canning. Remove with tongs or jar lifters one by one as you can the cucumbers.

In a 4 or 6 qt pot, place the vinegar, sugar, and all the spices. Bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the sliced cucumbers and onions. Bring to a boil again. As soon as the sugar vinegar solution begins to boil again, use a slotted spoon to start packing the hot jars with the cucumbers. First pack a jar to an inch from the rim with the vegetables, then pour hot vinegar sugar syrup over the vegetables to a half inch of the rim. Wipe rim clean with a paper towel. Place lid on jar and secure with screw band

If you are planning to store pickles outside of the fridge, process the filled jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes. Water level must be at a least one inch above the top of the cans. Bring to a hard boil for 15 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool to room temperature, which will take several hours. The jars should make a popping sound as their lids seal.

Best served chilled, and a meat-and-cheese board helps!

15 June 2012

Tonight's Episode: Gonna sip Bacardi like it's your 150th Birthday

What better way to spend a random Tuesday night in June than celebrating with the Bacardi Cocktail Classic? This event, proceeds of which go to help the Special Olympics, pits the talents of some of Charleston's best bartenders in a winner-take-all Mixology battle for the PERFECT Bacardi Cocktail.

 The location couldn't be better, the South Carolina Aquarium. Tables set throughout the space allow you to enjoy your cocktail while wandering through the exhibits, such as the new Madagascar section.

The crowd was definitely on the younger side, dressed for a Miami cocktail party. The live Latin jazz and hand-rolled cigar bar helped with the effect. 

 The award for embracing the spirt of the competition has to go to the crew of Hall's Chophouse. Do they look the part of Bacardi slingers or what? Hugh Lloyd's San Juan Collins was pretty damn delicious, too!

 The award for best centerpiece goes to the Aqua Terrace, which may be one of the least known but greatest bar settings in Charleston, with amazing views of the Ashley River from the Marriott Rooftop. Their Squall Heart Sour, featuring Bacardi Oakheart rum was good, but read more fall in flavor profile, which sat it in contrast with the much more summery offerings by other tables.

 If you have ever been Upstairs at the Icehouse in Summerville, it is no surprise who was the most entertaining. Pete Nickel, the man behind Charleston Flair Bartenders, puts on a show that reminds you of the movie Cocktail, except without the beach, and horrible shirts, and bad acting, and lame bar tricks, and crappy drinks, and Hobbit that married Katie Holmes. His Smokin' Cherry Blaze had a great, though spicy, flavor.

 Evan Powell, formally master mixologist of Fish, manned the table for his not-yet-open venture Republic. His Farewell to Arms Cocktail seemed to be a big hit, though I must admit it wasn't my personal favorite. Then again it was cocktail number 13, so take that with a grain of salt.

 The Judges choice for best cocktail went to Mt. Pleasant's Eurasia. Mike's Changes in Latitude mixed Bacardi Silver, St. Germaine, lemon basil sorbet, ginger beer, lemon, and star anise. Very tasty, very fun.

 The People's Choice winner went to the aforementioned Fish, with their Liquid Sunshine, a blend of Bacardi Silver, elderflower syrup, Sauvignon Blanc, Lemon, Lime, orange slices and soda.

 The Girl and I went a different direction with our vote for best cocktail. We both went with the Honeydew and White Tea Fizz, courtesy of Bryan Voss at Vendue Rooftop. Light, fragrant, refreshing, and a perfect Summer sipper.

 Photo curtesy of Keannnete Perez of 

 The Girl, who by the way is allergic to rum and therefore the perfect DD for this event, and I both had a fantastic night. Between the great cocktails (of which she had a few sips), the good food catered by Tristan, the great conversation of Boomer and Jonah from The Becket Agency, and the fun on the deck with Ramses the Great (Chef Jonathan of the Woodlands), this was a great way to spend an evening. 

Ramses the Great, unafraid of the cigar I can't keep lit 

Now thats some good Jazz 

 Pretty sure he wanted to eat my face



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