Necessity Is the Mother (of refrigerator pickles)

Well, in eight days I’ll know whether this was a waste of time and ingredients, or if I’ve made a fortnight’s worth of deliciousness.

We have a local farmer’s cooperative that has begun marketing itself in a clever way. It’s called Panhandle Fresh. It costs $25 to sign up for a season, and then once a week they send out an email with an online shop that’s open for about 36 hours. You make your selections, pay via (brilliant), print out your combination list/receipt and pick up your goodies the next Saturday from a truck. They have trucks in several locations and times.

You may be wondering what this has to do with my foray into the refrigerated pickles game. Just this: last Saturday, I was giddy with excitement about taking two bags and driving downtown to meet a truck in a lamp store parking lot. It felt a little like trick or treat, even though I had already paid for my treats. I was early. Hoped I was in the right place. Then, sure enough, a small, unmarked semi pulled into the back lot of the lamp store. I watched to see what would happen next. In a few minutes, a bearded fellow in blue jeans emerged from the driver’s side, and opened up the back. A thin, pretty young woman with chin length black hair and an ornate tattoo from wrist to elbow on her right arm walked down the ramp and set up a sandwich board sign. Panhandle Fresh. I had arrived.

By the time I grabbed my bags and walked over to the truck, several other folks had gotten there. The young woman took my printed list and disappeared into the truck. I kibbutzed with another woman in line and the owner of the lamp store who had come out to visit with everyone. It was congenial and kind of festive. The young woman returned with my bags and a bouquet of sunflowers and snapdragons. I was surprised at first, having forgotten that I had ordered a small bouquet of cut flowers just because. I didn’t look at the contents of the bags until I got home, so I didn’t know I was in for another surprise.

The surprise was that instead of the two bundles of herbs I had ordered, I got a quadruple order of banana peppers. Gosh, they’re pretty. They looked great piled high in an amethyst glass bowl. But I knew there was no way on God’s green earth that my husband and I would eat all those peppers before they went bad. So, I stuck the pretty bowl in the fridge and began to ponder what to do.

Besides the banana pepper bonanza, I had some pretty flowers, a jar of local raw honey, a pound of in-the-shell green peanuts, and two red bell peppers. I had hoped there would be more veggies available, but the man assured me they would be coming as the weather cooled a bit.

And he was right. My order for this Saturday includes purple-top and white-top turnips (the bunch includes greens and roots), sheled pinkeyel peas, okra and something else — can’t remember what.

I’m not about to buy a pressure cooker (they scare me to death) or learn how to can and preserve, but when I read about “refrigerator pickles,” I decided to try the method on all those banana peppers. If they turn out well, I’ll post the recipe. The recipe is simple. Best of all, it doesn’t involve using an appliance that might blow up in your face.

I had some brine left over, so decided to really go wild and try it on some small cucumbers. Using the Mustard’s Grill cookbook Turmeric Pickles recipe as a rough guide, I added turmeric, celery seeds, a small onion (vertically sliced) and a slice of fresh ginger root to each batch. In eight days, we’ll know. Keep your fingers crossed.

The flowers were well worth the five bucks I splurged on them.  We have a 1950’s diner-inspired breakfast nook, complete with red vinyl booth seats and a black and red swirly designed, chrome-banded top. The flowers went into a curvy clear wide mouth vase and made a party in that space. It was so great, I’ve been using the diner to work on my novel, Eye of the Storm, ever since. Apparently, the muse floated in on a sunflower petal.

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