My family loves eating pickled garlic. As long as I can remember my parents drinking red wine, I can remember there being a little ramekin of pickled garlic and fancy olives out on the table. It’s such a ‘food marriage’, my mom would say. She loves that term. But it’s true…sipping a really bold red wine and popping a few whole, pickled garlic cloves in your mouth while you’re waiting for your steak to finish on the grill is such perfection, and a definite food marriage. We also believe in its healing powers, it is essentially raw garlic you’re eating after all. Whenever I would complain of having any type of earache or sinus headache, my mother would prescribe pickled garlic.
feel much better. 11. Did you eat 11?”
We bought all the garlic, chilies and vinegar and started to work. First we peeled every clove of garlic by hand, which sounded like such an organic and beautiful thing to do at first, but halfway through our stash my finger tips were literally red and burning from the heat of the raw garlic cloves. (We ended up with 15-20 large mason jars of pickled garlic, just to give you an idea of how many cloves we peeled by hand.) Then we had to make the brine, that was G’s job. We got the biggest pot we could find in that old beach house, which I think turned out to be the pot that we once cooked live crabs in when I was 13. That was before we swore as a family to never, ever do that again, (they scream and scratch at the sides of the pot! Just so heartbreaking).
Then came the chilies. We thought it would be pretty to have lots of different colors of peppers in each jar since we would be using them for Christmas gifts. We bought red and green jalapenos, serranos and some brilliantly orange habaneros. We knew we needed to be careful when working with the chilies, especially the habaneros, so we only cut the milder ones in half and left the little hot, orange ones whole, just to be safe.
I remember I was wearing a sweaty red t shirt and black cotton shorts leftover from our morning run and since I never remember to wear an apron, I always use whatever shirt or pants I’m wearing to wipe my hands on. It was late fall and I was coming down with a cold and sneezed into my shirt then wiped my nose and eyes with the front of it. Didn’t think one little thing about it. Seconds later I began to feel the skin on my face swell up and burn like an oven. So I wiped again. With the shirt. More burning, more fire. It was G who finally figured out what I had done and stripped my chili-juice-soaked shirt off and dunked my head under the faucet. Nothing helped, tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t even feel them. Everything went numb but hurt like crap all at the same time. We had heard that dairy is a good remedy for chili fire so I chugged some milk. Nothing. I ate some sour cream. Nothing. Then I saw some lonely velveeta slices in the fridge and began frantically peeling the tiny, invisible plastic off of each piece and rubbed it all over my face. I just sat back, refrigerator door wide open, me halfway inside it with yellow, processed cheese slices all over my face like a mask. I can still remember G’s laughter. And the pain. Oh, the pain.
I will never, ever handle habaneros again. Ever. The pickled garlic was good, everyone seemed to like it. And we just finished our last jar of it a few months ago. But every time I ate a piece I could feel a little twitch coming on in my eyelid.
Recipe for A&G’s Pickled Garlic:
Go to www.CherithValley.com or next time you’re in Boone, NC stop by the Tomato Shack on Hwy 105 and buy your own.