Release day! Love those. Love celebrating them with food and spirits (the alcoholic kind). “Lighting the Way Home” is first and foremost a story about the importance of family and friendship, and about finding happiness in your old back yard. “Lighting” is also Book Two in the Delectable Series of food-themed romances. So what better way to celebrate than with a little recipe.
There’s nothing quite like a fresh kosher dill pickle, with that fizzy zing. I’m not talking Vlasic, either. I’m talking about the pickles your great-grandmother might have made in a big ceramic crock and stashed in her closet until they were ready. I remember when I lived in Manhattan in the 80s how much I loved to head over to Gus’s Pickles on the lower east side and order pickles right out of the huge plastic barrels. If you’ve seen the movie, “Crossing Delancy,” you’ve seen Gus’s. Unfortunately, Gus went out of business a few years back and although they still exist somewhere, the old store is no longer. But I still remember how when I’d bite into a Gus’s half-sour pickle, it would squirt all over me!
So here’s a recipe for making brined pickles like the ones Gus use to make. I had hoped to include it in the book, but those of you who have been following my blog know that I had a few family issues pop up in the midst of edits, and I didn’t have time to get it done. Pickle making is an art, no doubt, but it’s also pretty easy and if you, like me, have a great farmer’s market, it’s a great way to use those wonderful fresh cucumbers you get in mid to late summer!
After the recipe, look for an excerpt from “Lighting the Way Home” that includes a trip to the pickle store. An homage to Gus’s Pickles! Enjoy! -Shira
- 5 1/2 ounces pickling salt, approximately 1/2 cup
- 1 gallon water
- 3 pounds pickling cucumbers
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon dill seed
- 1 large bunch fresh dill
Mix the salt and water in a pitcher and stir until the salt is completely dissolved. Rinse the cucumbers and remove stems, if there are any.
Place the fresh and dried spices in a 1-gallon crock or large glass jar. Add the cucumbers on top of the spices, then pour the brine mixture over the cucumbers in order to completely cover them. This is very important! If the pickles aren’t covered, they will get moldy and you’ll have to trash the entire batch of pickles. I usually put a small drinking glass on top to keep the pickles well underneath the brine, but you can also put the excess brine into a ziploc and put that on top.
Put a cloth towel on top of the jar or crock and set the pickles in a cool, dry place. After 2-3 days, check the pickles. You’ll know they’re fermenting if you start to see bubbles rising, then check daily and skim off any scum you find. Make sure the pickles stay covered. The pickles will keep for months in the refrigerator when they’re done.
Blurb: World-class chef Joshua Golden is homesick for Paris before he even arrives in New York, but he’ll endure it—his parents need him to help run the family restaurant while his mother recovers from surgery. Running a place so far beneath his talents is bad enough, but bad turns to worse when Josh discovers his former best friend and lover, Micah Solomon, is living at his parents’ house with his ten-year-old son, Ethan.
For ten years, Josh has done his best to forget how Micah shattered his heart into tiny pieces. Now Micah’s back, fresh out of prison, and helping out at the restaurant. Micah may not be the kind of sous chef Josh is used to, but he is more helpful and supportive than any of the other employees. But Josh finds it hard to keep his distance when, time after time, Micah proves himself a better man than Josh thought. Reluctantly, Josh realizes there is more to Micah than his lousy life choices… but that doesn’t mean Josh is ready to forgive him.
Lighting the Way Home Excerpt
The setup: Josh is picking his ex-best friend/lover’s son up from school and they walk the same streets Josh walked as a kid.
JOSH waited for Ethan outside the elementary school courtyard. The sun had finally come out from behind the clouds, chasing the biting chill away. Josh unzipped his jacket and played with his scarf. He was nervous, he realized with some surprise. He’s just a kid, he reminded himself. He’d never been that comfortable with kids anyhow, but knowing it was Micah’s kid seemed to have somehow ratcheted up his nerves. Doing homework in the kitchen was one thing, but spending time with the kid without something to keep him busy was another.
“So what’s Paris like?” Ethan bounced along beside Josh.
“It’s… different, I guess.” It was hard to sum that up for a kid. And right now, Josh just couldn’t find the enthusiasm he’d usually felt about France—the reminder that he’d be going back soon was unwelcome. More so to think he’d be leaving Micah behind, after they’d just started to get to know each other again.
“When are you going back?”
“Soon,” Josh said.
“Oh.” Ethan looked disappointed, as if he’d been about to ask Josh something.
They stopped at the corner for a red light. As Josh glanced up at the street sign, an idea came to him—something he’d been thinking about doing since he’d gotten home, but had never found the time for.
“How’d you like to get some pickles before we head over to the restaurant?”
“Pickles?” Ethan’s face brightened. “You mean the ones in the big plastic thingies?”
“Plastic barrels?” Ethan nodded. “Yeah. I haven’t had one of those in a long time, and it’s not too far out of the way.” The barrels had been made of wood when Josh was a kid.
“Cool!” Ethan nearly jumped up and down. “Did you and Dad buy pickles when you were kids?”
“Sometimes.” Josh didn’t mention they’d both gotten into trouble more than a few times for being late to Hebrew school because they’d stopped for pickles. The memory made him smile. Three blocks later, they stopped in front of a small storefront. The enormous red plastic pickle barrels—waist high for Josh—were set out in front of the store. Other than the barrels now being plastic instead of wood, Josh was surprised at how much it looked the same as he remembered. One of the store’s employees was scooping pickles into aplastic container for a customer. The smell of garlic and saltwater brine danced in the air, and Josh’s mouth watered.
“So, what kind do you like? Half-sour? Sour?”
“Sour.” Ethan looked proud of his choice. “My friend Jason says I could eat a whole lemon. I ate a whole bag of these mega-sour gummies once. He said I looked like a fish.” Ethan made a puckered face and they both cracked up.
“A dozen half-sour, a dozen sour, and two sours to go,” Josh told the man behind the pickle barrels before glancing back at Ethan. “I like them really sour too. My mom and dad like the half-sour ones.”
“My dad likes the half-sours.”
Five minutes later, they were headed toward the restaurant and happily crunching their pickles. Josh had forgotten how good they tasted, even enjoying the juice running down his chin. He wiped it off on his sleeve, just like when he was a kid. Ethan grinned and followed suit. It would be impossible to find traditional kosher pickles in Paris.
Not that he’d thought to look for them. The French version of pickles—cornichon—weren’t even remotely similar.
Lighting the Way Home is now available at Dreamspinner Press in paperback and ebook formats!