by Jessica Clark
I’m a transplant to the South. That’s right, I’m one of those genealogical anomalies who had to ask my friends what boiled peanuts and white acre peas were growing up. Both my parents were born and raised in New York, and squishy peanuts were never found on my plate at home.
My family made delicious healthy food, but many recipes were inspired by the casserole culture of the early 90’s, not the farming culture that I found growing up between Tallahassee and Thomasville, Georgia.
Multiple times a week I found myself entering a different culinary culture as we crossed the invisible state line. On the other side of this transformative line, I learned how to eat and make quintessential Southern food on my tippy-toes peering over the counter in my friends’ kitchens. I would crave the baked mac-and-cheese I crammed on my plate at a Sunday church event and drool over the starchy smell of fresh peas from my friends’ family farm. And then there were the desserts—oh, those gooey desserts!
And little did my sticky, chocolate-covered fingers know that there was even more to the culinary history of the South, including the magic of pickled veggies and fruits.
Southerners have perfected the art of pickling, preserving and storing in jars over decades. For them, it was a necessary part of survival, and allowed them to capture the season’s best in a moment. But while this process was for survival, it produced the tingling taste of savory, sweet and sour from the marriage of vinegar and spices. So when I read a shrimp pickling recipe from Southern chef and author Hugh Acheson, I thought, “how in the world is that any good?” Come on, you thought the same thing when you saw the name of this recipe. But your taste buds will soon admit that this is Mason jar magic.
After eating these little pickled morsels far too often, I made a few tweaks for my taste based on Chef Acheson’s recipe.
So, take your taste buds on a tour of the South with this easy and scrumptious recipe. And go ahead—half the fun of eating them is putting your hands in the jar.
- 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
- ½ tablespoon of kosher salt
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails left on
- ½ teaspoon celery seeds
- ¼ teaspoon allspice berries
- ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil (or as much as it takes to top up the jars)
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 ½ tablespoons of minced garlic (if you aren’t a garlic addict like me, put a bit less)
- 10 dried bay leaves
- ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, minced
- ½ medium Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
- A splash of apple cider vinegar
- A sprinkling of cumin, sugar and Old Bay seasoning to taste
- Bring a large pot of water and kosher salt to a boil (just enough water to cover the shrimp). Add the Old Bay, then the shrimp and immediately reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes until the shrimp turn pink and cooked through. Plunge the shrimp into an ice bath to stop the cooking, then drain and refrigerate.
- For the pickling liquid, combine the celery seeds and the remaining ingredients in a non-aluminum bowl. Mix well.
- Distribute the shrimp evenly into a few large mason jars. Pour the pickling liquid into the jars over the shrimp. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. If mason jars aren’t handy, you can also do this step in a large resealable bag. Serve chilled.
- You can serve these simply as an appetizer with toothpicks or on top of salads, fried green tomatoes or with an herbed aioli dipping sauce.
Jessica Clark is the CEO of Skye Creative Marketing in Tallahassee, FL., food stylist and self-proclaimed amateur chef and foodie. Her passion is to document the best dishes and the chefs who make them through her travels around the world. Follow her on Twitter at @JLBell.