Decoration Day . . . . with a side of Sriracha Pickles
Decoration Day . . . .
with a side of Sriracha Pickles
I know you’re thinking, ‘What is she talking about? It’s Memorial Day. What’s up with this Decoration Day?’ Well, my happy, holiday-ing friend, that’s what they first called it.
And . . . it was a Yankee thing.
After the Civil War ended, or if you were up north, you called it the War of the Rebellion, or if you were down south, the War for Southern Independence. Or the Late Unpleasantness. No one really called it the Civil War till later, but never mind . . .
Southerners, around 1861 or so, never one to miss an opportunity for a covered dish, began gathering to honor their soldiers who’d died in service by singing and praying and laying flowers on their graves. Then, they ate.
In 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, about 10,000 newly freedmen, children, missionaries, and pastors met to honor and lay flowers (hence, ‘decoration’) on the unmarked graves of nearly 300 northern prisoners of war who died in the prison camp there.
This was the first officially recognized celebration to honor soldiers who’d died in service. A couple of years later, it became Decoration Day.
This left us with the Southerners having their Confederate Memorial Day and the Northerners their Decoration Day. That can get confusing and expensive to have two separate, but identical holidays.
Evidently, not that confusing, because it took 100 years to do anything about it. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This consolidated or shifted most holidays around to always be on a Monday so we could have 3-day weekend holidays.
Of course, having three people agree on something can be tricky on a good day. Having 50 states agree on something isn’t going to happen. Eventually they all got on board and, with it falling on the last Monday of May, it’s also the official start of summer.
Which brings me to this recipe. With summer you have cookouts. With cookouts you have hotdogs and hamburgers. Or steaks. Or bar-b-que. I’m not picky. It’s all good. But, you need pickles or relish. This gives you both. And it’s fast and easy.
My guy likes it really hot. Me, too, just not quite so spicy and this hits it right. Not a peel-the-skin-off-your-tongue hot, but it has a nice little kick of heat and sweet.
1 cup red wine vinegar or Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (I’ve used both)
2 cups sugar
3-5 TB Sriracha Sauce (I go with 5)
1/2 tsp celery seeds
A variety of thinly sliced fresh veggies similar to what you’d think of for pickles or relish:
3/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup red chard stems, leaves removed, cut in 2″ lengths
1/2 cup carrots, thinly shredded
1/4 cup celery, thinly sliced, like the chard
1/4 cup cauliflower, thinly sliced & diced
1/4 cup cucumbers
The easy directions are these: Mix the first four ingredients in a bowl and pour over whatever sliced veggies you’ve chosen.
Place contents in glass container and refrigerate.
It’s good immediately, better in an hour, and starts losing its ‘heat’ in about a month (just add more Sriracha Sauce).
For a few more details:
For the actual jar of pickles you’ll see here, I used cucumbers, onion, daicon, carrots, and Swiss chard.
That’s a leaf of Swiss chard on the cutting board in the picture above and the yellow, white and pink stalks beside the cutting board show you the stems after the leafy part’s been cut off. I used a ‘rainbow’ bunch of Swiss chard from the market just for the colors. They taste the same.
A mandoline is, by far, the best way to get the paper thin slices needed for this. This one by OXO is one of the best I’ve found for the money. You can check it out here.
That white carrot looking thing in the top picture is a daicon radish. Peel it like a carrot, then using a julienne peeler, peel strips of the white inside, which looks like this:
The green and white peeler you see to the right of the mandoline is a Ghidini peeler I bought at Williams-Sonoma for $9. You can find something similar here.
Mix vinegar, sugar, sauce, and seeds in another bowl. Plan on a ratio of 2:1 for liquid:veggies. It’s not brain surgery, so just be sure you have enough juice to cover the veggies when in their jars. Place all the veggies in a container large enough to have space for stirring. I use a large shrimp boil pot. Pour liquid over veggies and stir. Because some of the veggies will be so thinly sliced, they tend to stick to each other. I find using my hands to stir and fill the jars is easiest.
I’ve substituted Splenda with little difference in taste. My guy couldn’t tell. I think I could, or maybe I just knew I had switched. It was still good, but use half as much Splenda and add more to taste. The bag said it’s equal to sugar in quantity, but sometimes things come out too sweet for me.
For this particular jar, I used honey. Since honey is sweeter than granulated sugar, I used 1/3rd the amount I would have of sugar and then, added another tablespoon because it wasn’t quite sweet enough to me.
Place in sealable jars, pouring sauce equally over each jar. Shut and refrigerate. It’s best the next day, but after a couple of weeks the Sriracha heat dissipates, so you may want to add more.
This is great on pork, hamburgers, ham, hot dogs, turkey sandwiches, or as a relish on a buffet.
Happy Memorial Day!
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