I might have a problem, which is that I’m addicted to pickling. I want to pickle everything, and foods that aren’t pickled no longer hold any appeal. Carrots don’t taste the same, and sandwiches lose their thrill without that vinegary crunch. I’m like a cheap parody of Fred Armisen squealing, “I can pickle that!” because, really, I can, and I have. I’m of course not talking about those mondo pickles hipsters seem intent on throwing in my face or that memetic woman in the pickle suit feeds to her camera crew. I want artisanal pickles utilizing special ingredients like beet juice or rice vinegar. I want you to dip an entire prix fixe menu from Jean-Georges into this pickling liquid, and let me eat it my underwear.
What has caused this fit of briny hysteria? A recipe from Sean Brock’s beautiful cookbook, Heritage. This is the sort of longform cookbook that makes you pine and brine: for food, for the writer’s pantry, for recipes passed through generations, steeped in both tradition and vinegar. The particular pickle recipe I’ve waxed to above is found here, featured prominently in the go-to dip you’ll want to whip up for every upcoming holiday gathering. We’ve made adjustments based on our personal taste and some substitutions based upon availability of regional ingredients. So, while not a perfect re-creation, this is a perfect cheese dip. And it all begins with the pickle.
This pickling liquid boasts a blend of herbs and spices that work in harmony to create a flavor so complex that it makes your dill version taste like tap water. So start here. Make the liquid, add your scallion, and then let it rest for about a day or longer (though we wouldn’t recommend more than a few weeks). We aren’t pickling for winter here, just for supper. Once your scallions are ready, use them to make the pimento cheese dip. A staple in southern cooking, and many a swinging sixties party, this dip has been underestimated for a long time. That might be because most people have limited exposure to it in the dairy aisle next to the french onion dip. But this recipe proves that homemade is always better, and that you’ll never long for another cheese dip again. Pair it with some homemade crackers (as we have pictured here), crostini, or veggies. Hell, pair it with ice cream, and you’ll be the toast of every holiday party.
Or I’ll be the toast, as long as you slather me with pimento.
We can even take turns.
- 1 jalapeño, sliced into rounds, with seeds
- 2½ cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons coriander seed
- ¾ teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 green cardamom pods, cracked
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 whole peeled garlic cloves
- 1 pound green onion (use only the white and pale green parts, roots removed and cut into 1 inch pieces)
- Combine all ingredients except the onion in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and once the sugar dissolves, pour over sliced green onions in a bowl. Once cooled, store in a large jar or container. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- 2 large red bell peppers
- 4 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup of mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce (we like Tapatio or Cholula)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ cup pickled green onion, chopped, plus ½ cup of the pickling brine, strained
- 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated on the large side of a box grater
- Roast the red peppers over an open flame on a gas stovetop, one pepper at a time or roast in the oven, set to broil. If roasting this way, rub the pepper surface with olive oil, then place on a baking sheet in the upper third of the oven, but not on the top rack. Be sure to turn the peppers every few minutes, until all sides have blistered. Set the blistered peppers in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Once cool enough to handle, peel the blackened and blistered skin off of the peppers. Seed and dice the peppers.
- In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese with a wooden spoon until softened. Add the mayonnaise and mix it well with the cream cheese. Add the hot sauce, salt, pepper, and paprika and mix until combined.
- Add the onions, the brine, and the cheddar cheese and mix until combined. Fold in the diced peppers.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.