Specialty of the House

Make pickles of yellow squash

CorrespondentOctober 27, 2012 

  • Specialty of the House Squash pickles, Acme Food & Beverage 110 E. Main St., Carrboro 919-929-2263 acmecarrboro.com
  • Pickling Spice Store-bought pickling spice may be substituted, and is probably cheaper for the home cook. If using a store-bought mix, add turmeric to intensify the color and (optionally) red pepper flakes for spicy flavor. 1/2 cup crumbled bay leaves 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger 3 tablespoons allspice berries 3 tablespoons black peppercorns 3 tablespoons coriander seeds 3 tablespoons mustard seeds 2 tablespoons whole cloves 2 tablespoons turmeric 2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg 2 cinnamon sticks, broken TOSS all ingredients to combine well. Yield: 2 cups
  • Squash Pickles Chef Kevin Callaghan says, “for us, these are refrigerator pickles. But they can be put up like traditional pickles to enjoy year-round.” 1 gallon (16 cups) summer squash, sliced into half moons (not too thin) 6 cups finely sliced sweet onion 1/3 cup kosher salt, plus more to taste ice to cover squash and onions 1 gallon apple cider vinegar 1 quart water 16 cups sugar 2 cups pickling spice (recipe follows) TOSS squash, onions and 1/3 cup salt in a large bowl until evenly combined. Transfer to a large colander and set over a sink or large tub. Cover with ice (this helps keep the pickles crisp) and allow to drain. SIMMER vinegar, water, sugar and pickling spice in a large non-reactive pot for 30 minutes or so to flavor the vinegar. STRAIN the mixture, discarding the spices. Clean the pot thoroughly of any spices that may have stuck to the sides. Return the vinegar mixture to the pot. ADD squash and onions to the vinegar mixture. There may be more squash than vinegar initially, but the squash will release water as it cooks. HEAT mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook just until squash is tender. Squash must not be raw but also should not be stewed. Tasting is the only way to know. Adjust salt if necessary. TRANSFER to clean lidded jars. Keep refrigerated. Pickles will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. Yield: about 12 pint jars

My husband and I really enjoy the brief time each summer when Acme Food & Beverage in Carrboro offers their tomato sampler with pesto appetizer, but this summer I particularly noticed how lovely the squash pickles served on the side were. I thought there was a trace of curry in them. Think they’d share that recipe?

Michele Hayslett


Owner/chef Kevin Callaghan is happy to share the recipe for the pickles he remembers first enjoying as a child at his grandmother’s house in South Carolina.

“She always got more squash in her garden than she knew what to do with,” Callaghan said, “so she made pickles. We ate them with black-eyed peas or crowder peas,” which he recalls being enlisted – not always willingly – to help shell.

Callaghan’s culinary path eventually led to Chapel Hill, where he worked at Crook’s Corner under the late Bill Neal before opening Acme in 1998. The chef’s deep roots in Southern farm soil are evident in Acme’s seasonal menu, which had a strong locavore focus before the term became trendy. Longtime fans look forward to the chef’s weekly email newsletters, which are as entertaining as they are informative as he reports on his latest harvest haul.

Fortunately, that haul has recently included late crops of the yellow summer squash that Callaghan favors for this recipe.

“I’ve gotten some nice Zephyrs, but you can use crookneck, straightneck – even zucchini, though the color isn’t quite as nice. Just be sure to pick firm squash, the smaller the better.”

It’s a safe bet that Callaghan’s newsletter (you can subscribe at the restaurant’s website) won’t be reporting on any more local heirloom tomatoes this year. But with a few jars of these pickles in your fridge, you can still get a taste of summer sunshine for several weeks to come.

Specialty of the House gets recipes for local restaurant dishes. Send requests, including your city, to Specialty of the House, c/o The News & Observer or e-mail ggcox@bellsouth.net.

For a printable copy of the recipes, click the links:

Squash Pickles

Pickling Spice

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