LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Now to our Weekend Picnic series, where we offer simple recipes for filling your picnic basket with local foods. Today we go to Columbia, Missouri where Harvest Public Media's Abbie Fentress Swanson found two picnic classics that both rely on vinegar.
ABBIE FENTRESS SWANSON, BYLINE: The farmer's market just opened, but it's already drawing a big crowd, including Mike Odette, a chef and co-owner of Sycamore Restaurant. Most Saturdays Odette's here trolling the market for food that can be worked into the next menu, but today's mission is a little different.
MIKE ODETTE: We're looking for veggies that would make good slaw to take on a picnic and some veggies that would make good refrigerator pickles.
SWANSON: So Odette's visiting his favorite farmer. He stops by Jim Thomas's stand in the hopes of finding Chinese vegetables to shred for slaw, like bok choy and Napa cabbage.
ODETTE: How long will we see cabbage?
JIM THOMAS: Hopefully all summer.
SWANSON: A creamy mayonnaise dressing may spoil in the summer heat, so Odette favors a simple vinaigrette that's equal parts cider vinegar and sugar. He recommends making it the night before.
ODETTE: It benefits from sitting in the refrigerator overnight so the flavors can develop. You could even dress your slaw on your picnic. You can bring the dressing in separately.
SWANSON: He also adds chopped apples, celery and onions. Odette says a slaw like this is a perfect foil for any kind of meat served at a picnic. So are refrigerator pickles and not just cucumbers. They could be other fruits or vegetables, chilled overnight in a brine of white vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices.
ODETTE: The bright acidity of pickles go perfect with pate or even with fried chicken.
SWANSON: Pickling predates picnics. Cucumbers were being pickled in Mesopotamia back in 2030 BC according to the trade group Pickle Packers International. Perhaps one reason pickling has survived is because there are so many seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Odette stops to marvel at a bunch of beets that look like jewels.
ODETTE: These look like bull's blood beets. They're bright, bright red and they make great pickles. I see some little white Hakurei turnips, the Japanese turnips that pickle nicely, and some super fresh cucumbers.
SWANSON: He uses a standard brine in most of his recipes.
ODETTE: It's nearly equal parts white vinegar and water, a little more sugar than salt, and maybe a few spices depending on what it is you're pickling.
SWANSON: Odette says mustard seeds, dill, caraway, fennel and dried chilies all go well with pickled carrots. The carrots need to be blanched quickly before being brined so they taste crunchy and not raw.
ODETTE: The texture of a refrigerated pickle is important. You want it to be crispy crunchy and you want it to say even though I'm a pickle I'm fresh, fresh, fresh.
SWANSON: Fresh indeed. But preserved for a hot summer day much like this one. For NPR News, I'm Abbie Fentress Swanson in Columbia, Missouri.
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