Betty Katz’ Sour Tomatoes

                   Growing up, our next door neighbor would make these pickles every summer. My mother had gotten the recipe from her, and I’ve made only one minor change. The original recipe called for the use of Alum directly in the brine, something that is no longer recommended practice in pickling. Instead, I use Pickling Lime (which serves the same purpose) in a bath first, which stiffens the tomatoes but is washed off. These are not shelf stable pickles, and must be refrigerated.

Ingredients

Liquid

  1. 3 qts. Water
  2. 1 qt good Cider vinegar
  3. 1 cup Kosher salt (233 grams of any non-iodized salt)

In Sterilized Jar                

  1. 1 t pickling spice
  2. 1 T honey
  3. 1 dried hot chile pepper
  4. 1 bay leaf
  5. 2 – 3 pieces peeled raw garlic

Method

  1. Bring liquid to a rolling boil. 
  2.  Place dry ingredients in each sterile quart jar
  3. Scrub green tomatoes. Cut into halves or quarters
  4. Add tomatoes to jars.
  5. Pour in boiling liquid to top of jar. Seal.
  6. Let cool to room temperature.
  7. Refrigerate. These are not shelf stable.

Additional Notes

For crisper pickles, use a Pickling Lime (like Mrs. Wages) on the tomatoes prior to starting. Follow the instructions on the package of Pickling Lime for proper handling.         

Reflections on Another Era

It was the mid-1990’s. In addition to the major television networks, there were also shows directly into syndication.

The thing about syndicated shows was that they didn’t have a universal time slot (or a single release of an entire season). Instead, the local stations had a window in which to air the shows. This becomes important later.

Television programs were also mostly episodic. The move towards the more plot heavy story arcs was going on (X-Files being a notable example), but in general, at the end of any given episode, things had basically returned to the status quo ante. Sometimes you had to wait for the conclusion of a two-part episode with a cliffhanger in between. This will also become important later.

In Denver, where we lived at the time, Babylon 5 aired at the end of it’s programming window, so we were almost always just shy of a week behind the first viewers. And then, the television station made a mistake. They aired The Coming of Shadows a week early.

Watching the episode, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and trying to figure out how they were going to get to a reset point. And then I realized that they weren’t. They were breaking the setting, and nothing was going to be the same after this episode.

This isn’t a post about the 1990s.

When we get to the other side of this, those of us who survive, we are going to be different. The world is going to be different. I don’t know the shape of those changes, it is far too soon to tell. But there isn’t a reset point ahead, the world after Covid-19 is going to be very different then the world that rang out 2019 a few months ago.

Recipe: Spicy Sesame Noodles

This is a quick spicy noodle dish that is good hot or cold, and quite low in carbohydrates because of the use of the Konjaku based Shirataki noodles.

Sauce Ingredients:

  • Sichuan Pepper Chili Oil (either home made or a high quality commercial)
    • 2 tsp oil
    • 2 tsp solids
  • 1 TBSP Chinese Preserved Vegetable
  • 1 TBSP + 1 tsp Toasted Sesame Paste
  • 1 TBSP Chinkiang Vinegar
  • 1 TBSP + 1 tsp Chinese Light Soy Sauce
  • Pinch salt (or more to taste)

Other Ingredients:

  • 1 TBSP Cooking Oil
  • 16-20 oz ground meat
  • 3 packages of Angel Hair Shirataki (Konjaku) noodles (7-8oz each)

Instructions:

Combine all of the sauce ingredients into a small bowl, and mix well, setting aside.

Cut the packages of noodles into thirds, and rinse well in a colander or other strainer, and set aside to continue to drain.

Place a sauce pan large enough for all the ingredients over a medium-high heat, and add the oil. Add the ground meat to the hot oil, and stir fry until cooked through and crumbled.

Add the drained noodles to the meat, followed by the sauce mixture. You may want to use some of the noodles to help get the sauce out of the bowl.

Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid has cooked down, and when you move the noodles around the pan with the spoon you see at most a little oil on the cleared sections of the pan.

Remove from the heat and serve immediately, or refrigerate to eat later.

Ingredient Notes:

Sichuan Chili Oil: This high quality option is commercially available, or you can make your own (e.g. this recipe from All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China).

Chinese Preserved Vegetable: There are any number of options, I used this variety, which is available at specialty grocery markets or from Amazon.

Sesame Paste: Tahini won’t work. You need a toasted sesame paste , either commercially available (this is a superb option), or again, home made by grinding toasted sesame seeds.

Chinkiang Vinegar: I have not had the opportunity to try this one from Mala Market, but other varieties should be readily available at specialty grocery stores or from Amazon.

Chinese Light Soy Sauce: There is enough of a difference between Chinese and Japanese soy sauce that you should be sure to get a quality Chinese version. This bottle, again imported by The Mala Market is extraordinary, but you can also use Pearl River Bridge if you are looking for a cheaper alternative.

Shirataki Noodles: I use this brand, shipped from Amazon, as it is shelf stable and therefore doesn’t take up room in the refrigerator.

Stepto

Stephen Toulouse (Stepto) passed away this morning.

We worked together in Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft back a dozen years or so ago, and lived (at the time) in the same small town.

Over the years, we changed jobs, and he moved away. But we still kept in touch, and we still saw each other at conferences.

It was 2016, the first day of DEF CON. My brother Joshua had gone in for routine surgery that morning.

As things were starting in Las Vegas, I got a phone call. Something had gone horribly wrong. Over the course of the day, the doctors attempted to save his life.

The thing is, DEF CON is big. There are tens of thousands of people, and more going on than anyone could possibly try to do or see. But Stepto sat with me at a cafe in Paris, while I waited to find out if the last desperate attempt would work.

It didn’t.

But that wasn’t something he could do anything about. What he could do, and did, was sit with me in the middle of what was literally the busiest week of the year in our field, and give me hope, and a friend to talk to.