Homemade Pickles and Tuna Egg Salad Sandwiches
I’m a tough sell when it comes to pickles. They can’t be too briny, sitting long in their salty, vinegary bath until they’re a uniform green through and through. There has to be a garlicky brightness in their flavor, and a decent crunch each time I chew. Sweet pickles are never an option because, well, they’re sweet, and we’ve never quite agreed with one another for any reason — not even on a hot dog at the ball park slathered in ketchup, mustard, and onions.
A great pickle holds up in my mother’s potato salad, its juice added right before she tosses all the ingredients together. The perfect tuna sandwich has an abundance of diced pickles mixed in, or it’s not a tuna sandwich as far as I’m concerned. Egg salad? I have to have pickle.
We’ll never be the pickle eaters my sister’s family happen to be; I’ve only managed to raise one son who seemed to inhale the jar of crisp Vlassic garlic dills as soon as I came home with them. I never actually saw this remarkable feat, but realized it when I needed a pickle for a recipe and reached for the jar to find a lone spear left bobbing in the brine amongst the pickling spices. After raising three boys, I’m convinced that if on any occasion there is one left of anything originally contained in a jar or package, it translates to, “Mom. I didn’t eat all of it.”
Although I can’t say I’ve ever canned anything, this simple pickle recipe has me thinking I might like to try. And it’s so easy, running out of pickles won’t be a problem again. I can also tell you they happen to be perfect in a good tuna egg salad sandwich — a perfect meal for any day, but especially a summer day when cooking is the last thing on one’s mind.
8-10 Persian cucumbers
1-1/2 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 sweet white onion, sliced thinly
4 lg. cloves garlic, smashed
2 T sugar
1 T pickling spices
2 tsp. black peppercorns
1-1/2 c. water
4 tsp. kosher salt
Slice the cucumbers into quarters lengthwise. Fill a small bowl with the water and heat in the microwave briefly until hot, but not so hot that you can’t keep a finger in the water. Add all the ingredients except for the cucumbers and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Place the cucumber quarters into a jar, bowl, or sealable plastic bag and pour the brine over them, covering completely. Place in the fridge until chilled, at least 12 hours. Enjoy the next day!
- This recipe was adapted from one published in the August 2010 issue of Real Simple.
- I basically doubled the recipe, except for the sugar. I also used some rice wine vinegar in the whole vinegar quantity. The pickling spices I used can be found amongst the plastic bagged spices at the market and this particular mix was heavy on the mustard seed, coriander, and contained cumin as well as dried whole peppers and bay leaf.
- Go easy on the hot water. It only needs to be hot enough to quicken the integration of the sugar and salt into the mixture. The original recipe calls for hot tap water, but if I ran my water long enough for it to get hot, I’d deplete what’s left of our city’s meager water supply. Hence, the microwave.
- Persian cucumbers are long and thin, but not as long as an English cucumber or one of the basic varieties. They’re nearly seedless and the peelings are tender.
Tuna Salad Sandwiches
2 cans chunk albacore in spring water, drained
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 pickles, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon good mayo
splash of pickle brine
salt & pepper to taste
1 avocado, mashed
squirt of lemon for the avocado
sour dough bread
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except the avocado and lemon. Toss lightly to combine. Taste and adjust flavors to your liking. In a separate bowl, mash the avocado and squeeze in the lemon. Mix well and season to your liking. Toast your favorite bread, then spread the avocado on each of two slices. Layer some nice, tender greens on one slice, then heap the tuna salad over the greens. Cap it off with the second slice and enjoy!
- Egg in my tuna salad isn’t a must, but I sure do like it. In fact, I’ll eat the egg salad without tuna, but still have to have all the other ingredients. Have to.
- Pickles, onions, and celery are a must. The crunch factor is important as well as the flavor. Sometimes, it’s more about these ingredients than it is the tuna. Maybe the tuna just holds it all together. Silly.
- Have you ever tried mashed avocado on a tuna sandwich? Oh my. Don’t forget the lemon. Perfect.
- Mayo is a seriously big deal at our house. We don’t eat a lot of it. In fact, almost none. So a heaping tablespoon is plenty because a mouth full of mayo is not a pleasant thing on any occasion. Besides — think of all that fat.
- I don’t need greens on this, but green things are good for you body, so the more you use them, the better. Sprouts would be great, too. Especially radish sprouts. They’re tart!
- As much as I fondly remember the tuna sandwiches packed in my lunch box in elementary school (picture soft, white, squishy bread) I love sourdough toast. It adds another texture and holds up against the weight and moisture.
- If you want to skip the bread, mound the salad in the avocado half, or prepare a bed of salad greens, dice the avocado, squirt on the lemon, then add the tuna egg salad. Dinner!