At the Farmers Market (and a Sweet Apple-Pickle Cucumber Recipe)
One of my favorite ways to promote my apple cookbook is by doing demos at farmers markets around New England. And now that fresh early summer apples like Paula Red and Lodi are in season, I’ll be visiting a lot of them in the coming months.
Today I was at the Kendall Square market in Cambridge. I demonstrated how to make one of my two favorite summer apple recipes: Quick Bread-and-Butter Apple Pickles (the other favorite is a simple tart made with Gravenstein apples and raspberries).
This apple pickle relish is a bit different from the bread-and-butter pickles you may know from childhood. It’s also much simpler. It does have a similar flavor profile, though: sweet and bright, with warm spices.
It’s a quick pickle in every sense — just a thirty-minute bath in the vinegar before it’s ready to serve, and I simply keep it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, rather than canning it. It never lasts long enough to put up, anyway. Serve as a side salad, or on sandwiches and burgers, or chop up and mix into potato salad.
Apple Notes: Red-skinned apples look prettiest here, but any apple will work beautifully.
Note: To make this pickle truly pretty, the mandoline and biscuit cutter are essential. The mandoline because you want paper-thin slices, and the biscuit cutter so you can create apple slices that are the same size as the cukes. You don’t need anything fancy, though.
Equipment: Mandoline; 1½-inch biscuit cutter (see Note)
Makes: About 4 cups – Active time: 25 minutes – Total time: 60 minutes
Ingredients for Quick Bread-and-Butter Apple Pickles
1 large seedless (English) cucumber (about 14 ounces or 400 g), unpeeled
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 pound total), unpeeled and halved lengthwise
2 medium shallots
1 cup rice vinegar
½ cup water
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon granulated sugar 1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig fresh tarragon, cut into 4 pieces
Directions for Quick Bread-and-Butter Apple Pickles
1. First, prep your cucumbers: Cut off the ends and discard, then slice on a mandoline. Put in a colander and toss with the salt. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, prep the apples: Trim the seeds and core from each apple half, then set, cut-side down, on a cutting board. Use a biscuit cutter to push down into the flesh, extracting two little cylinders from each apple half. Because the apples are round, the cylinders won’t be perfectly level. That’s fine. Thinly slice each cylinder on the mandoline (again, don’t worry if some slices are not perfect circles). Slice the shallots on the mandoline as well, then put in a medium bowl with the apples.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, honey, and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the cinnamon stick and tarragon, and pour the mixture over the apples and shallots.
4. Rinse the cucumbers well and lightly blot dry (still in the colander) with paper towels. Add the cucumber slices to the bowl with the apples and stir well. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.
People seem to really love these pickles and it was fun to talk to them about their favorite apples. I also got to visit with a new friend friend, Sarah Davenport, from Apex Orchards in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Apex grows amazing apples, but they also have gorgeous stone fruits like peaches, plums, and apricots right now.
Farmers market people are generally so friendly and generous, trading tastes of whatever they’re selling, sharing advice, supporting each others’ businesses. Today I enjoyed an amazing cornmeal cookie from Area IV restaurant in Cambridge and discovered the gluten-free wonders of Violette bakery. Violette’s cupcakes were so tender and delicate, I never would’ve guessed they were made with anything but regular cake flour.
I’d love to hear about your favorite farmers markets and vendors. There are so many great ones to choose from. Lucky us!