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5 posts from October 2023


~ The Ideal Cubano: La Ideal's Cubano Sandwich ~

IMG_4884Almost all famous sandwiches got their iconic status thanks to the working class people -- Cuba's Cubano is one such sandwich.  In the early 20th Century, vendors who were stationed inside the workplaces, sold hot meat and cheese sandwiches to the workers.  When these workers made their way to the USA, usually to regions in Southern Florida, they, like all immigrants, brought their recipes and traditions with them -- that included their institutional but beloved Cuban sandwich.

Pan-cubanoA bit about the Cubano:  Like all sandwiches, it starts with the bread. Cuban bread is light and crusty -- alot like a French bread loaf.  Cuban bakeries baked through the early AM hours and delivered the bread to customers by hanging it on a nail outside their door.  Because Cuban bread had a short shelf life, Cuban sandwiches were typically made within a few hours of receiving it.

The Cuban bread gets sliced down the middle hoagie- or submarine-style, then slathered with yellow mustard.  Thinly-sliced deli-style dill pickles, Swiss cheese and ham get layered on, followed by shards of mojo-marinated Cuban-style pulled pork roast.  Traditionally, mustard is the only condiment added (although after-the-fact, it's not unusual for some folks to add mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato).  While a Cubano can be served cold, it's almost always heated in a sandwich press (a panini grill) until the cheese is melted and the bread is grilled to golden.

IMG_2214A panini press is basically a double-sided appliance that cooks both sides of a sandwich at once. Much like a grill pan, the grids of a panini press give these sandwiches their signature grill marks.  There are several good brands, in all price ranges, on the market.  My Cuisinart Griddler is about 5 years old.  It doesn't take up too much space, controls heat perfectly, and, I love it. This gadget has earned its rightful place on my kitchen counter. 

Much like the Philadelphia cheesesteak, Cubano enthusiasts say the most authentic version is found in the Tampa, Florida region, where the Americanized version of the sandwich is said to have originated.  Today I'm featuring the Cuban Sandwich recipe from my favorite Cuban cookbook:  Eating Cuban, written by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs, copyright 2006, and, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.  As the cover says, "120 Authentic Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores".  As I say, "120 Authentic, Spot-On Cuban Recipes that Work in the American Home Kitchen".  The photography is super-gorgeous as well.

While Eating Cuban is my favorite Cuban cookbook --

IMG_4812Thanks to great recipes in all seven of the cookbooks I purchased in Florida, I've been able to bring the unique taste of Cuban spice into my home kitchen. Because my experiences with Cuban cuisine are limited to trips to Miami, without them, how would I learn that "mojo (MOH-hoh)" means "sauce" in Spanish, and, in Cuban cooking, it's a sauce made with olive oil, garlic, cilantro, mint and oregano leaves, cumin and bitter orange juice.

La Ideal's Cuban Sandwich.  As per Eating Cuban:

La_ideal2Located in what was once an old grocery store, La Ideal is a favorite neighborhood hangout for members of Tampa's Cuban-American community.  The scene is animated and relaxed.  Regulars chat from table to table, but the feeling is inclusive, with visitors made to feel like members of the family.  A dynamic force behind the atmosphere at La Ideal is Majito, Mario Aguila Jr. Majito's dad.  Mario Sr. moved his family to the United States from Cuba in 1966.  After ten years in New York City, the family settled in Tampa, Florida and opened La Ideal.  In 2005, Mario Sr. sold La Ideal to Luis and Juanita Tejada.  The ownership has changed, but Mojito has stayed on at the front of the house, and with Juanita in charge in the kitchen, the food is still great. Cuban sandwiches (Cubanos), toasted in a large sandwich press, are a specialty of their house.

IMG_4875For each sandwich (which can be assembled and wrapped in plastic wrap 1-2 hours prior to grilling, which is convenient if you're making them for a crowd):

1  4 1/2"-5" section of a loaf of very fresh French bread that has been trimmed of ends then cut into lengths that will accommodate panini press (Note: La Ideal's recipe uses an 8"-9" section of bread.  That said, in the home kitchen, I find a 4 1/2"-5" section to be more manageable.)

1  tablespoon yellow mustard

1  tablespoon mayonnaise

1  dill pickle, cut into 2 long, thin strips, or, 2-4 dill pickle chips

2  thin slices deli-style Swiss cheese

2  thin slices deli-style ham

1/2  cup pulled and diced or thinly-sliced mojo-marinated Cuban-style pork roast (3-4 ounces)

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing grill grids on panini press

IMG_4847 IMG_4851 IMG_4852 IMG_4855 IMG_4860 IMG_4865~Step 1.  To assemble sandwiches, trim ends from bread, cut into desired sized sections, then split sections in half lengthwise.  Spread mustard on cut side of each bottom half and mayonnaise on each top half.  Layer pickle slices on top of mustard, then add 2 slices Swiss cheese, 2 slices ham, and finally, a generous pile of pulled pork.

IMG_4871 IMG_4878 IMG_4883~ Step 2.  Preheat the grill press to medium-high and when light goes on, spray grids with no-stick.  Place assembled sandwich on hot grill grids.  Place top of press directly on top of sandwich.  Firmly, but gently, using the press's handle, press down on the sandwich for 45--60 seconds.  You are NOT trying to squish the sandwich to oblivion.  You ARE trying to put just enough pressure on it to steam and crisp the bread a bit.  Let go.  Continue to cook until crisp, golden and cheese is melted, 4-6 minutes.  Use a spatula to remove sandwich from grids and allow to rest 1-2 minutes prior to slicing and eating.

The only thing more beautiful than an assembled Cubano...

IMG_4870... is a grilled Cubano.  Patience -- let it rest a minute or two.

IMG_4879And every bite of a Cubano is an absolute delight: 

IMG_4907The Ideal Cubano:  La Ideal's Cubano Sandwich:  Recipe yields instructions to assemble and grill as many Cubano sandwiches as desired.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; serrated bread knife; panini press; spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd0c433e970bCook's Note:  Those of you who know me know I consider a high-quality, well-constructed sandwich to be the perfect, well-balanced, portion-controlled meal.  For me, a sandwich is much more than just putting a few ingredients between two slices of bread to stave off a hunger attack.  Like meal making, sandwich making requires thought, and, I consider myself to be a very thoughtful sandwich crafter.  For my own famous grilled-sandwich recipe, I invented this one just for me.  Try my recipe for ~ Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia Panini ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2023)


~ Mojo-Marinated Cuban-Style Pulled-Pork Shoulder ~

IMG_4783My experiences with Cuban food, all good ones, are limited to a few trips to Miami.  I know that "mojo (MOH-hoh)" means "sauce" in Spanish, and, in Cuban cooking, it specifically applies to a sauce made with olive oil, garlic, fresh cilantro, mint and oregano leaves, cumin and bitter orange juice.  I also must say that without more than a few well-written recipes in the seven Cuban cookbooks, that I purchased during my visits to Florida, I'd stand little chance of bringing the unique taste of Cuban spice into my home kitchen -- they've all contributed to my recipes:

IMG_4812Pulled pork is popular in many parts of the Caribbean, and, when cooked in the traditional manner, just like throughout The Barbecue Belt here in the USA, they go:  whole hog, low and slow, over carefully-tended wood-fired heat sources for a long period of time.  That said, depending on where you are in the Caribbean, it is seasoned and/or sauced differently.   The first time I ordered Cuban-style pulled pork, which arrived in the form of their signature Cubano sandwich, I ordered it because I like pulled pork.  What I didn't know was how uniquely-different it would be from the Southern-style barbecue I was used to.  The difference between a Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich and a Cuban-style pulled pork sandwich is astounding -- the bold citrus (in place of vinegar) and herb flavors were right up my alley. I knew I needed to figure out how to make it at home -- in a manner that didn't require an entire hog or building a barbecue pit.

Pork_101_final_b-fixedA bit about the pork:  "Boston butt", is a bone-in cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the "pork shoulder" from the front leg of the hog.  It got its name in pre-Revolutionary War New England:

Butchers in Boston left the blade bone in this inexpensive cut of pork shoulder, then packed the meat in casks called "butts". They sold the pork shoulders individually to their customers, and, when they got popular, they began shipping "the butts" Southward and throughout the Colonies. Simply stated:  the way the hog shoulder was butchered, combined with "the butt" they arrived in, "the butt's from Boston", evolved into the cut's name "Boston butt".

IMG_4670For the meat and marinade:

1  7-8  pound bone-in Boston butt pork shoulder roast, untrimmed (do not remove fat cap)

3/4  cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish

3/4  cup orange juice, preferably freshly-squeezed with the zest from 1 orange stirred in 

1/2  cup lime juice, preferably freshly-squeezed

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, some stem included is fine

1/4  cup minced, fresh mint leaves, leaves only

2  tablespoons minced, fresh oregano leaves, leaves only, no woody stems

8  large garlic cloves, run through a press 

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon dried Mediterranean oregano leaves

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_4673 IMG_4680~ Step 1.  Prep ingredients as directed, placing in a 2-gallon Ziplock bag as you work.  Briefly toss marinade to combine, then, add pork to bag.  Seal and marinate in refrigerator overnight, stopping to flip bag over (to turn roast) as often as possible/whenever convenient.  Overnight is best.  Remove the bag from the refrigerator and return the roast and marinade to room temperature 1-2 hours.  Preheat oven to 320º-325°.

IMG_4683 IMG_4686 IMG_4690 IMG_4720 IMG_4715~Step 2.  Remove roast from bag and place it, fat-side-up, on a rack in a roasting pan.  Reseal bag and refrigerate remaining marinade until roast is out of the oven and resting.  Roast meat, uncovered on center rack of preheated oven, 7-8 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer placed several inches into the thickest part of the meat in 2-3 places reads 190°-195°.*  Remove from oven, seal pan with foil, and allow roast  cool enough to be manageable to pull with your fingertips (about 1-1 1/2 hours). Reminder from Mel:  Remove the marinade from the refrigerator during this rest period.  

*Note:  After the first 60-75 minutes of roasting, loosely place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the fat cap (after it is nicely-browned).  This will shield it from over-browning or burning.

IMG_4726 IMG_4729 IMG_4731 IMG_4732 IMG_4736 IMG_4743 IMG_4739~Step 3.  Remove and discard the foil and transfer the roast to a large carving board.  Pour the drippings from the bottom of roasting pan into a fat/lean separator.  Add the lean portion of the drippings, about 1/4 cup, to a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan.  Add 2 cups diced yellow or sweet onion to the saucepan, adjust heat on stovetop to medium- medium-high and cook until there is almost no liquid left in the bottom of the saucepan and onions are beginning to caramelize, 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly, to avoid scorching, during the last 3-4 minutes.  Add all of the marinade to the onions.  Adjust heat to a steady, rapid simmer and cook, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes.  Remove mojo from heat.

IMG_4747~ Step 4.  Using your fingertips or a pair of meat claws designed to pull or shread meats (available on Amazon), do as follows:  Begin by pulling the roast into 5-6 large chunks and pieces that have naturally formed during the lengthy cooking process, meaning, if you tried to pick the entire roast up, it would almost naturally fall apart into 5-6 pieces.  Next, pull each chunk into large, succulent, strands, doing your best to keep them bite-sized (not small and stringy).  Some folks prefer to use a cleaver to chop the meat into pieces -- the choice is yours.  While working remove and discard any pieces of gristle, but, hang onto all the caramelized, crispy, full-flavored and fatty brown exterior bark.

Drizzle w/mojo sauce & serve w/mojo black beans & rice:

IMG_4801Side-Dish: Cuban-Style Mojo Black Beans & Rice:

IMG_4804Mojo-Marinated Cuban-Style Pulled-Pork Shoulder:  Recipe yields 8+ cups pulled pork/8 servings/8 pulled-pork sandwiches/16 Cubano sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; citrus juicer; garlic press; 2-gallon Ziplock bag; roasting rack; roasting pan; instant-read meat thermometer; aluminum foil; carving board; fat/lean separator; 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan

IMG_7003Cook's Note: The Carolinas hold a unique position in terms of Southern barbecue because theirs is believed to be the oldest form of American barbecue.  For a period of time I had family who lived in both North and South Carolina, so I became familiar with "their many styles" of pulled pork.  There's more.  No two cook's make their sauce the same and everybody is a critic.  ~ My Carolina-Style Pulled-Pork BBQ (Oven Method) ~ is:  my recipe, the way I like it.  It's been tailgate tested and tailgate accoladed too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2023)


~ Nothing Fancy: Old-Fashioned Autumn Apple Pie ~

IMG_4609The best apple pie recipes aren't fancy -- they're special.  Just put one in the oven and see what happens.  Word travels fast.  Everyone wants a slice of old-fashioned appleiscious goodness. "It's as easy as apple pie."  Truth told, that's a kind of misleading statement.  Baking a really good apple pie is not as easy as "A, B, C", "one, two three" or even "snap, crackle, pop".  Too many people think that just because they've baked an apple pie it automatically qualifies for awesome apple pie status.  It does not.  I have encountered more than a few nasty renditions:  from overcooked to undercooked, sickeningly sweet to vapid, and, soupy to pasty -- anything but the "pleasant and accommodating" experience Mark Twain painted in his 1885 novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (the sequel to his 1876 novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer).

IMG_4608Pastry, apples, sugar & cinnamon & into the oven it went.

The phrase "it's as easy as pie" originated over a century ago when almost every American homemaker baked pies several times a week.  It was a task so familiar, it was done without any real effort.  When it came to apple pies, they used the apples that grew in their climate and adapted the recipes of their family's heritage to suit those apples.  More often than not, they picked them off of a tree in their backyard or bartered for a basket from their neighbor.  They did not have the luxury of walking into a market and choosing from five or six varieties (from the hundreds of varieties mass produced in the world today).  It really was a kinder, gentler time and "as easy as pie."  Pastry, apples, sugar and cinnamon and into the oven it went.  No complaints.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but, according to the experts, all apples are not created equally.  

IMG_3132"Because an apple tastes good doesn't make it pie-friendly."

PICT1581Nowadays, everybody is a critic. Experts will tell you, "just because an apple tastes good does not make it pie-friendly."  For example: My favorite eating apple is the soft-fleshed, creamy McIntosh, and, while I use them to make pies (because my grandmother made great pie with them), a quick internet search will tell you they're not ideal. My husband grows Fugi, Macintosh and Granny Smith's in our backyard -- they all taste great and do well in our Central PA climate.  Fuji's are relative newcomers to America's apple scene.  They're crisp, sweet and, similar to the Red Delicious, are best eaten raw in salads and slaws.  As for the Granny Smith, originally from Australia, with its bright-green skin, tart taste and crisp texture, not only is it pie friendly, it is wonderful when cooked with savory foods (like onions) or served with salty foods (like cheese). I could go on -- and on -- there are hundreds of varieties of apples in the world, with about 60 of them mass grown in America.  My point is:  before you put an apple in a pie, try to find out if it is pie-friendly, or, find a recipe that makes it pie-friendly.  I'm using freshly-picked Macintosh apples today.

IMG_45272   9" pie pastries for a double-crust pie, preferably homemade pie pastry (pâte brisée)

7  cups peeled and thinly-sliced Macintosh apples, from 7-8 apples

1  tablespoon lemon juice

1/2  cup granulated sugar

1/2  cup lightly-packed light brown sugar

4  tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8  teaspoon ground cloves

1/4  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  tablespoon salted butter, softened

1  large egg white, ideally at room temperature

additional granulated sugar

IMG_4531 IMG_4538 IMG_4540 IMG_4544~Step 1.  Roll and fit one 9" pie pastry in the bottom of a 9" pie dish.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim it to hang slightly over the perimeter (about 1/8").  Set aside.  Peel and slice the apples, placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add the lemon juice to the bowl and toss to coat the apples.  In a medium-bowl, stir together the sugars, flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and salt.  Add the sugar mixture to the apples and toss to thoroughly combine.

IMG_4547 IMG_4551 IMG_4553 IMG_4556~Step 2.  Spoon the apple pie filling into the pie pastry, mounding it slightly towards the center. Dot the top of the pie filling with the softened butter.  Place the second pie pastry over the top, and, using the kitchen shears, trim it around the perimeter to match the bottom pastry.  Using your fingertips, seal the two crusts together and form a decorative edge all the way around.

IMG_4562 IMG_4565 IMG_4568 IMG_4570~Step 3.  Using a fork, whisk egg white until frothy.  Using a pastry brush, paint the smooth surface of top crust (not the decorative edge) with egg white, then, using your fingertips, sprinkle a light coating of sugar over the glossy top.  Using the sharp tip of a knife, poke a few small holes in the top pastry (to allow steam to escape as pie bakes).  Bake on center rack of 350° oven until golden brown and bubbly, 55-60 minutes, stopping to give the pie a quarter turn every 15 minutes, to insure even browning.  Place on wire rack to cool completely, about 3-4 hours, prior to slicing.

Bake on center rack of 350° oven 55-60 minutes:

IMG_4579Place on wire rack to cool completely, 3-4 hours:

IMG_4577Slice & serve ever-so-slightly warm or at room temperature:

IMG_4600Take a bite of old-fashioned appleicious goodness:

IMG_4619Nothing Fancy:  Old-Fashioned Autumn Apple Pie:  Recipe yields 1, 9" double-crust pie/8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  pastry board; rolling pin; 9" pie dish, preferably glass; kitchen shears; cutting board; vegetable peeler; chef's knife; large spoon or spatula; fork; pastry brush; sharp paring knife; wire cooling rack

IMG_4589Cook's Note:  The Pennsylvania Deutsch are famous for their streusel-topped pies, and one of my all-time favorites is their Dutch Apple.  Click on the link to get my recipe for ~ Dutch Apple, Sour Cream & Walnut-Streusel Pie ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2023)


~ Quick & Easy Bread & Butter Refrigerator Pickles ~

IMG_4660When I was a kid, during the late Summer and Fall, my grandmother, my great aunt, and my mother used to can -- a lot.  There were days when one of their respective kitchens was filled with boxes of fresh fruits or vegetables and huge pots, and, the dining room table was lined with neat rows of freshly-sterilized mason jars -- dozens and dozens of them.  They'd start at sunrise and wouldn't stop until each one of those jars was filled.  I enjoyed those nights, snuggled in my bed, forcing myself to stay awake to hear "the pop" of each jar lid (the indicator of a proper seal).  We would crunch and munch on those pickles through to the following season when they got made all over again -- I loved them atop my cheeseburger and in place of relish on my hotdog.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09671996970d PICT0196As a kid, those were fun times for me.  I found the process fascinating, but, I wasn't the one doing the work.

As an adult, while I do can a few fruits and vegetables in the traditional manner (peaches and red beets to name two), I honestly do not love the exhausting, time-consuming process -- I also do not have a sister and/or a daughter to stand by my side and help.  I much prefer quick-pickling in small batches or freezing in large quantities, if or when either process can be applied without compromise (peaches do not freeze well, and beets are best pickled or canned in the traditional manner).

What's the difference between pickling & quick-pickling?

IMG_4654Pickle comes from the Dutch=Deutsch=German word "pekel", which means "brine" (not "cucumber" as is easy enough to assume).  A brine is nothing more than a mixture of vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and usually, some dry spices or fresh herbs. Depending upon the solution, pickled foods can take on all sorts of colors and flavors.  Pickled foods can be sweet, sour, sweet and sour, or spicy.  At the the whim of the cook, any of them can be piquant or pedestrian.

Pickling per se is canning.  It's easy but time consuming.  Get out the big canning pot and special utensils, boil the mason jars to sterilize them, add the appropriately-prepped fruit, vegetables or food to the jars, add the brine, immerse jars in boiling water for a designated amount of time, then, remove from the water bath and let cool until the lids "pop", which means they are properly sealed.  In the case of water-bath-canned anything, if stored in a cool, dry place, the food can last for a year or two. Pickling/canning dates back to medieval times and is how our ancestors preserved all types of food prior to refrigeration. Without refrigeration, food spoiled quickly and pickling was a means of preserving it for out-of-season use or transporting it for a long journey.

Quick-Pickling is considerably easier than traditional pickling and almost any raw or blanched vegetable can be quick-pickled.  All that's needed is a saucepan, any type of clean jars, vinegar, sugar and a few herbs and/or dry spices.  The prepped vegetables get placed in the jars, the seasoned vinegar-sugar mixture gets simmered in the saucepan for a few short minutes, then the solution (sometimes boiling hot, sometimes completely cooled, so follow the recipe on this point) gets ladled over the veggies in the jars.  The lids get placed on the jars and the quick-pickled food gets stored in the refrigerator until they get eaten or up to two weeks.  Because the shelf-life is short and the jars take up refrigerator space, quick-pickles are usually made in small batches.

What are bread & butter pickles?

IMG_4640Bread and butter pickles, also known as sweet and sour pickles are on the sweet end of the pickle spectrum, but not quite as sweet as sweet pickles, and, decidedly different than the sharp bite of dill pickles.  They're typically crinkle-cut sliced, which makes them ideal for topping hamburgers and a variety of sandwiches.  I often serve them as a side-dish, and, occasionally, dice them to add to salads or mince them to add to relishes.  Interestingly enough, my family never made homemade bread and butter pickles.

We lived in Eastern Pennsylvania, the land of the Pennsylvania Deutsch (the German-speaking people who immigrated to PA and surrounding areas, along with their many, many, pickle recipes).

Ihwx.5431a462-d5ca-41c9-b47c-74fa6bfd7bc9.500.500In the tradition of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, the Wos-Wit brand has been canning delicious relishes, dressings, preserves and various garden vegetables. Beginning in the 1940's, as a small farm producing Pennsylvania Dutch products by canning the excessive vegetable bounty, the Pennsylvania Dutch label "WOS-WIT" ("what do you want") has a rich and extensive history. Originally owned by John and Dorothy Kresge, in 1983 the business was sold to Paul Zukovich, a long time farmer who now operates the canning facility on his 80 acre farm: Grouse Hunt Farms. His family continues to use all of the Kresge's original recipes. 

Wos-Wit Bread & Butter Pickles contain all the traditional ingredients and no artificial preservatives:  sliced cucumbers, vinegar, sugar, onions, red peppers, salt, tumeric and spices.


For the brine mixture:

1  cup distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)

1  cup distilled apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)

2  cups granulated sugar

1/4  cup pickling or Kosher salt

1  tablespoon mustard seeds

1/2  teaspoon each:  celery seeds, dry mustard, red pepper flakes and ground turmeric

8  whole allspice berries

8 whole cloves

IMG_4631 IMG_4635Step 1.  To prepare brine, stir all ingredients together in a 2-quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, adjust heat to a steady simmer and cook 3 full minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly while prepping vegetables:

IMG_4643For the cucumber mixture:

3  pounds cucumbers, 1/4"-thick sliced into coins, preferably crinkle cut

1/2  pound small-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup small-diced red bell pepper

~ Step 2.  Prep vegetables as directed placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add all the warm-hot brine and stir.  Refrigerate for 6-8 hours, stirring frequently.

~ Step 3.  Remove bread and butter pickles from the refrigerator.  Using a slotted spoon transfer pickles to desired-sized, mason-type jars (although any type of lidded jar will work just fine), lightly-packing them into each.  Using a small ladle, add brine to the neck of each jar of pickles.  

Seal jars & keep stored in refrigerator for 7-10 days:

IMG_4662Quick & Easy Bread & Butter Refrigerator Pickles:  Recipe yields enough pickles to fill 40 total ounces/8, 5-ounce mason jars were filled today.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; 2-quart saucepan; large spoon; large slotted spoon; small ladle; desired sized mason-type jars with tight-fitting lids

6a0120a8551282970b01901ee05043970bCook's Note:  When I was growing up, there was almost always a jar of pickled eggs in our refrigerator.  If there wasn't, it was time to make more.  To this day, my mother's recipe for   ~ Pretty in Pink: Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Eggs ~, is one of my favorite snacks. They are made via the quick-pickling method too, and, here in my Happy Valley kitchen, I make them with our own home-grown home-canned red beets.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2023)


~ Amish Honey-Mustard & Pickle-Relish Pasta Salad ~

IMG_4977Walk into any Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch grocery store or a market that caters to a region with a large Amish population, then, walk up to the refrigerated deli-case.  There you'll find several traditional, high-quality side-dishes:  eggy-rich macaroni- and potato- salads, creamy cole slaw, sweet 'n sour slaw and pepper-cabbage.  Next, take a stroll down the condiment isle and gaze at the array of honey-mustard- and sweet and sour- salad dressings, dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, vinegar-marinated vegetables or mustardy chow-chows (a crunchy vegetable medley in mustard sauce).  Lastly, check out the sweet treats:  streusel-topped Dutch-apple, rhubarb-streusel and shoo-fly pies, crumb cake and coffeecake, apple dumplings, and, sand-tart or snickerdoodle cookies (to name a few).  Eat your sweet and savory heart out.

Med_1145608712-6If you "shop Amish", you know what to expect.  If you're a tourist, be prepared to break your budget, but not because the food is over-priced -- it's not.  You are simply not going to be able to resist wanting to take a taste of everything home with you.  Lucky me.  Not only did I grow up in the Lehigh Valley region Eastern Pennsylvania where a lot this wonderfulness takes place, I married into a family where Nana (grandmother) was Pennsylvania Deutsch.  She, like all women of her persuasion, was an incredible cook.  I was in my late teens and early twenties at the time, but even back then, I was a smart enough cookie to "take advantage" of time spent with her in her kitchen, and enjoyed learning many of her recipes.  I've done very little to make them my own.

Amish macaroni salad recipes are all on the sweet side.

IMG_4981There are plenty of recipes for Amish macaroni salad in cookbooks and on-line.  They're all good, they're all a bit different, but, they're all similar on one point:  Amish macaroni salad is on the sweet side. Nana's recipe contains all the traditional ingredients (macaroni, celery, onion and bell pepper).  That said, she didn't add diced, crunch-tender blanched carrots  (as most traditional recipes do).  She used pimentos instead.  I can only assume for their sweet, tangy flavor and pretty red color.  There's more. Nana's secret was to add honey-mustard salad dressing into the mix, and, it adds absolutely delightful flavor.  This macaroni salad is so delightful, I'm always asked:

"This macaroni salad is special." "What's your secret?"

IMG_49181  pound medium pasta shells

1  tablespoon sea salt, for adding to boiling water for pasta

6  large eggs, hard-cooked 

1  3-ounce jar chopped pimientos

1  cup each:  medium-diced green bell pepper, celery and onion

1/2 cup well-drained and diced bread and butter pickles, preferably homemade, or, high-quality store-bought 

1 1/2  cups mayonnaise

1/2  cup sour cream

1/2  cup honey-mustard salad dressing (not honey-mustard)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2  teaspoon each:  celery seed, garlic powder, paprika, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_4921 IMG_4925 IMG_4911 IMG_4913 IMG_4915 IMG_4929~Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add the 1 tablespoon salt.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Do not overcook.  Drain pasta into a colander and begin adding very cold tap water to cool it to room- or below-room temperature.  Give the colander a few good shakes, to remove excess moisture, then, spread pasta out on a baking pan that has been lined with a few layers of paper towels.  Set aside to "dry", meaning, not dry out, just dry of all moisture.  In a 2-quart saucepan, hard-cook the eggs -- no green rings please.  Drain the pimentos onto a small paper-towel-lined plate too.

*Note:  When chopping eggs for salads like egg, tuna- or pasta-, both of my grandmothers taught me to chop the yolk separately from the white.  It's not necessary, but it does look prettier.  

IMG_4934 IMG_4937 IMG_4938 IMG_4943~Step 2.  Transfer pasta to a large bowl.  Dice eggs, celery, bell pepper, onion and pickles*, placing them in the bowl as you work.  In a medium bowl, stir together the mayo, sour cream, honey-mustard dressing, celery seed, garlic powder, paprika, sugar, salt and black pepper.

*Note:  Because almost all Amish and Pennsylvania Deutsch women make homemade bread and butter pickles, also known as sweet and sour pickles, there's no need to purchase sweet pickle relish.  Finely-diced bread and butter pickles are the best sweet pickle relish you will ever taste.

IMG_4947 IMG_4952 IMG_4955 IMG_4960~Step 3.  Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the pasta mixture.  Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, several hours to overnight.  Overnight is best.  Keep stored in refrigerator for 7-10 days, adding additional honey-mustard salad dressing, in small amounts, if necessary, to enhance its sweet and savory flavor and creamy texture.  Keep stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Portion into 1-quart containers & store in refrigerator: 

IMG_4964Would you like a crostini w/bacon, bread & butter pickles, roasted chicken breast & honey-mustard w/your Amish pasta salad?

IMG_4973Amish Honey-Mustard & Pickle-Reslish Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields approximately 4 1/2 pounds/3 quarts/12 cups.

Special Equipment List:  8-quart stockpot; colander; large baking pan; paper towels; 2-quart saucepan; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcafef88970bCook's Note:  Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist". They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh Valley.  Why? Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an official "State" religion.  Pennsylvania:  The first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2023)