A popular conceit holds that only the freshest in-season foods should grace our tables for proper, healthful and, let’s face it, morally sound meals. Unchecked, such policies might leave us bereft of such preserved pleasures as martini olives, colonial-era rum shrubs, country hams, lowcountry atjar, chow-chows, and pickled okra to grace bloody mary cocktails. Lucy Norris soundly plugs this philosophical bunghole with Pickled, her paean to the brined, fermented, and otherwise mildly rotten foods we can’t live without.
Pickled weaves oral histories gathered for New York’s NY Food Museum project among some eighty family recipes documenting ethnic picking traditions. The celebrated pickles of Eastern Europe’s winter larder—dills, beets, sauerkraut—bob to the surface, but Norris successfully dips deeper for fried dills, watermelon flesh (the other watermelon pickle), Korean kimchis, pickled fish, and preserved lemons.
Whether you regard them as summer in a jar or corruption in the cupboard, do yourself a favor: Make pickles before winter sets in for good. None of Norris’ recipes holds universal appeal—pickled duck tongues, anyone?—but the book is a gem for sensible cooks willing to buck a trend that implies pickles are déclassé, too much trouble or, worst of all, just plain make you a bad person.