{ 4/100: Wayne County Pickled Radishes }

Posted by on June 19, 2013 at 6:50 pm.
pickled radishes 4 One late summer day I sat on the front porch of our family home in Morehead City, a house we call the Swamp House, with my five siblings. At the time our ages probably ranged from 8 or 9 to 14 or 15, my sister Lauren and I at the top and my baby brother Ryan at the bottom. Ryan, bless his heart, was the willing participant in a series of dares in the late 90’s and early naughts. Being the youngest of six with a penchant to prove himself (not to mention the desire to actually win some cash) meant that he would accept any dare thrown his way from doing a naked somersault on the trampoline during Thanksgiving dinner to, on this beautiful Crystal Coast afternoon, drinking all the liquid in a gallon jar of pickles. pickled radishes 1

Our weeks at the Swamp House meant pimento cheese, pickled okra, pound cake, freshly caught fish fried in the small kitchen, big pasta dinners, seafood boils, and, of course, gallon jars of Mt. Olive dill pickled cucumbers. Eight or nine people can go through an alarming amount of pickles, especially when some of those people are teenage boys, and by the end of the week we were left with just the dregs. The brine. Normally dumped into the marsh but on this occasion repurposed for our entertainment.

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Ryan got ¾ of the way through the jar before he started (forgive me) looking a little green. Not really wanting to part with the money I’d bet (because that money was reserved for buying sour straws at the City New Stand) I was torn on whether to encourage him. His success meant an amazing feat of endurance and a lighter load in my wallet. And while I may have started out rooting for his failure it’s difficult to watch someone take on such a task without getting behind them. Ryan was the underdog. He was David and that brine was Goliath. Unfortunately, his story ends a bit differently than King David’s. Instead of defeating the legendary warrior Ryan sucummbed with mere cups of brine left, and puked into the marsh. I can’t say for sure but I’m fairly certain this experience may have soured him on accepting bets.

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Years later that is still what I think about every time I see a Mt. Olive pickle. Mt. Olive Pickle Company, located at the corner of Cucumber and Vine in Mount Olive, Wayne County, North Carolina, was formed in the mid 1920s as a way to save cucumbers that were going to waste. A Lebanese immigrant from nearby Goldsboro by the name of Shrickey Baddour teamed up with a sailor from Wilmington named George Moore to execute his plan of taking local cucumbers, brining them, and selling them to area pickle plants. Unfortunately for Baddour and Moore they weren’t able to scrounge up any buyers. With the help of the local business community money was raised to create a plant that would process and sell pickles and the Mount Olive Pickle Company was born, the fledgling investment of thirty-seven shareholders. Moore became the factory superintendent, Baddour became the salesman, and Wayne County was forever changed.

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As we walked through the streets of Mt. Olive in late April I thought about Ryan and his pickle juice and how that act of determination and will was more of a tribute to pickles than the North Carolina Pickle Festival (founded in 1986 by Mt. Olive Pickle Co). In fact, our house in late summer probably has more pickled products than the North Carolina Pickle Festival in its entirety. But that's another story for another day.

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Wayne County is overwhelmingly agricultural thanks to a mild year round climate and long no-freeze season. And while Mt. Olive does employ as many 500-800 workers depending on the season, you’ll also find manufacturing and processing of other animals and vegetables. Not to mention the three local colleges. Its county seat is Goldsboro and it is surrounded by Wilson to the north, Johnston and Sampson to the west, Duplin to the south, and Green and Lenoir to the East.

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It seemed only fitting that for the Wayne County edition of Tasting North Carolina I honor the pickle, but it was also important to me that I stay within the confines of the local growing season, which meant that no cucumber pickles were put up this weekend (though my cucumber plants are doing wonderfully in the front yard garden). I picked up two bunches of radishes at our food co-op; one bunch went into a jar with salt, water, ginger, and rose peppercorns to lactoferment and the other went into a jar with vinegar, salt, ginger, and rose peppercorns to vinegar pickle. My vinegar pickles will be done by the end of the week and my fermented pickles will be done by the end of the month, which means before I know it I’ll have crunchy, delicious, sour pickles just waiting to be thrown in a salad, tossed on top of a sandwich, or mixed into pasta. No drinking the brine, though. Those days have passed.

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Lacto Fermented Radish Pickles

1 ½ pint mason jar

1 bunch radishes

1 inch ginger root

1 tbsp rose peppercorns

1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups filtered water

In a pot of boiling water, sterilize jar and lid.

Wash and thinly slice radishes. Dissolve the salt in the water. Place radishes in sterilized jar with peeled and sliced ginger and peppercorns. Pour water over until it reaches the top and the radishes are completely covered. Loosely cover and store in a cool, dark, place for 10-14 days, checking every few days to make sure everything is submerged. After the pickles have fermented they can be stored in the fridge for up to a month.

Vinegar Pickled Radishes

1 ½ pint mason jar

1 bunch radishes

1 inch ginger root

1 tbsp rose peppercorn

1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups distilled white vinegar

In a pot of boiling water, sterilize jar and lid.

Wash and thinly slice radishes. Place radishes in sterilized jar with peeled and sliced ginger, salt and peppercorns. Pour vinegar over until it reaches the top and the radishes are completely covered. Cover and place in the refrigerator. Let sit 24-48 hours before eating. These will last in the fridge for up to a month.

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