I constantly laugh at the predictable facial reactions that result when I tell non NYC dwellers (and some newly minted Manhattanites) that I live in Brooklyn. Their eyes either fill with pity as they imagine my grave financial woes or conversely they become very inquisitive about the one room crack den that I must have inhabited with Biggie Smalls and Jay Z circa 1986. Clearly they are not from around here, can’t differentiate Brownsville from Boerum Hill, and haven’t seen my rent. There are a lot of reasons to live in Brooklyn, the majority of which for me are food centric, yet none of which involve saving money.
Brooklyn is without question the home of the East Coast DIY movement, with such a large array of small batch, locally sourced, artisanal products created within the borough that it would take months of concentrated effort to sample them all. And while Williamsburg may be the NYC craft foods Mecca with its rooftop farms, buzzing apiaries, and the ever expanding Brooklyn Flea, there isn’t a neighborhood to be found that isn’t incubating a newly minted business or housing some of the most back to the earth home kitchens in the country.
I live within walking distance of three farmer’s markets, two butchers, two fish mongers, two cheese shops, a brewery, two Michelin star recognized eateries, an artisanal chocolate shop, and a bakery….and that’s without getting on the subway, let alone getting in my car and leaving the boroughs. Within a block I can dine on the cuisine of roughly a dozen nations, sip on a glass of wine crushed and fermented mere miles away or slam back half a dozen pints, from Sixpoint brewery, who uses their expended grains to feed their flock of rooftop contained chickens on the Southern Coast.
Yet the streets are not inhabited with the latte drinking, guitar carrying, misanthropes you would imagine, but instead a new breed of hippy, disguised as cutthroat business tycoons, who applied for MBAs shortly after abandoning flannel in favor of foie gras. A group that bakes their own bread, searches out heirloom vegetables and meats, spends their weekends volunteering on local farms and not so reluctantly counts me as a member. See, aside from the two privately owned rooftop farms, and the cooperative in Red Hook, one needs to leave the city in order to get their hands dirty, and between my family’s house in the Catskill mountains, and a number of local u-pick farms, this summer was filled with just that.
I jarred tomatoes, roasted peppers, and made French fries just hours after I had ripped the potatoes from the ground. Spread homemade bread with homemade blueberry jam. Macerated freshly picked berries and mixed them with home churned butter, while I braised pork ribs and ground my own burgers. I picked lettuce greens by the handful, smoked chickens with hand cut apple wood, and ate more than one meal that I personally plucked from the sea. And right now I have pizza dough in the freezer, a marinating hangar steak in my fridge, pickles fermenting on the window sill, and grandiose plans to make an herbed goat cheese in the following weeks. Clearly it was a busy summer, and while the highlight was certainly my newly acquired sister in law, I am pretty sure that even she would agree the below pickle recipe is a close second. (Recipe by Mark Bittman, and any and all quality pictures were taken by my sister in law, the crappy ones I took myself.)
1/3 c kosher salt
1 c boiling water
2 lbs Kirby Cucumbers, washed and quartered
5+ cloves of crushed garlic
1 bunch fresh dill or 2 tbs dried dill
1. Coming the salt and boiling water in a large bowl and stir to dissolve. Add a handful of ice cubes to cool the mixture and then add the remaining ingredients.
2. Add cold water, or preferably vinegar to cover. I like to do this in canning jars, or old pasta sauce jars, but any container will do. Set aside at room temperature.
3. Begin sampling the pickles at 4 hours, although it will most probably take between 24 and 48 before they suit your taste.
4. Refrigerate for up to one week.