In a pickle

illustration by MARK STIVER

I finally made my first batch of pickles (dill pickles, if you want to know). I’m still feeling a bit uneasy about the whole thing. I mean, we’ve all had a healthy fear of botulism stirred into us, and homemade pickles may be the very definition of cautious canning.

Still, human beings have been pickling for thousands of years, often in far less sanitary conditions and with less technology and information about how pickling exactly works. Plenty of restaurants even make their own pickles these days, and many of our grandmothers certainly knew how (and yet we criticize them for not understanding how to work “the Facebook”).

This year, take a moment and learn to make pickles. You don’t even have to can them; just learn to make a refrigerator pickle (essentially boiled salt, water and vinegar poured into jars of spices and vegetables). Too costly? Pickling cucumbers are cheap and widely available at the farmers markets right now. Vinegar and salt are always affordable. And pickles are just so good. You’ll eat them all too fast to have to worry about botulism.