Like a lighting during a blizzard, my brainstorm was equally unexpected and electrifying: “Hon,” I called out to my girlfriend. “I have another excuse to drink.”
“Come look at this couch,” she responded from her office, where she was researching secondhand furniture. She’s currently consumed by nesting, a bird collecting the choicest twigs—preferably mid-century modern.
“Domesticity can wait. Now about this notion—” “It should include lengthy neck massages.” “Better! It’s a party revolving around Bloody Marys.”
“With spicy green beans?” “You must be clairvoyant.” Over the last decade, we’ve both developed serious affinities for New Orleans–style Bloody Marys: the spicier the better, packed with pickled green beans standing soldier straight. Several of these fiery pick-me-ups clear last night’s fog like liquid sunshine.
Luckily for my hangover-ravaged cadaver, replicating Big Easy bloodies is simple. Cheap? Not so much. Zippy beans, either green or wax, from Brooklyn purveyors Rick’s Picks and Wheelhouse Pickles cost upward of $9 a pint. Locally made is often interchangeable with overpriced.
“Just buy a couple jars, cheapskate,” my girlfriend said, perusing credenzas large enough to serve as a birthing station.
“It’s a recession, baby,” I said. “I’m going to pickle green beans.” My first order of business was sourcing mason jars. If Brooklyn were a South Carolina city, this would be a snap. But my local five-anddime is Target. Downtown Brooklyn’s branch is a tornado-swept time warp to communist-era Moscow, with barren shelves, boxer briefs ditched in the (oddly appropriate) hardware department and teenaged employees who’d rather text-message than answer a customer’s question.
“Do you sell mason jars?” I asked an employee on the phone. “Mason who?” “Jars. For pickling.” “Pickles are in the grocery department.”
“No. Pickling.” “Hold, please.” I could’ve listened to listless muzak for hours, but instead a tipster (well, Google) sent me to home-improvement depot Pintchik (478 Bergen St .at Flatbush Ave.,718-783-3333; B’klyn). I bought a dozen moonshine-worthy jugs and booked home, eager to investigate vinegar’s transformative power.
“Can’t you wait? I want to pickle too,” my girlfriend said, marking America’s inaugural appearance of brine-born jealousy.
“You gotta work, hon,” I said. “After all, couches don’t grow on trees.” Threat of scalding-water aside, pickling was an amusing snap.With This American Life babbling in the background, I:
a) Dropped trimmed green beans, fresh dill, mustard seeds and cayenne into a sterilized jar.
b) Topped the mess with a boiling, 50-50 blend of vinegar and water—a quarter cup of Kosher salt for every five cups of liquid.
c) Capped jars, then boiled for 10 minutes. d) Kicked back, cracked a floral Troëgs Nugget Nectar and awaited the coming apocalypse with a stocked larder.
“I feel like a 1950s farmer’s wife,” I told my sweetie that evening, gesturing to my pickled pride. “We’re not role-playing tonight,” she said, retreating to her computer to search for Craigslist couches.
“Your loss,” I replied, moving onto my next round of Drunken Homemaker: infusing vodka. I scored four bottles of crisp, affordable Sobieski vodka and inserted cracked black pepper, crushed Sichuan peppercorns, garlic and dill and Scotch bonnet peppers, which are 40 times hotter than jalapeños.
“Oh, sweet, vengeful God, the burn!” I cried, after rubbing my eyes with peppersluiced digits. “Don’t be so dramatic,” my girlfriend said. “My eyes look like blood-red Niagara Falls!” I shouted.
“It’ll go away. I’ll be in my office.” Couches, it seemed, took precedence over potential blindness. Hours passed, the blazing waterworks ebbed. Days passed, the vodkas were fragrantly infused. Two weeks passed, and the green beans were at their tangy, zesty apex. Right before the bash, a charcoal-gray couch arrived in our blue living room. “Don’t you dare spill anything,” my girlfriend warned friends, who arrived one Saturday morning to sample my wares. Horseradish, garlic, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemons, celery salt, black pepper and Tabasco were spread across a table, allowing guests to mix their preferred a.m. intoxicant.
The garlic-dill was delightfully vampirerepellant. The Scotch bonnet infusion was blistering, though pleasingly zingy when cut with unadulterated vodka.The Sichuan peppercorn was floral, while the black peppercorn was piquant and woodsy—a great Bloody Mary mate. Best yet, the beans were flavor batons, edible wands that knocked the socks off celery.The morning was a success, booze-drenched and budget-friendly, but my hard work was overshadowed by someone else’s efforts.
“The green beans and vodka were super,” one guest said, “but I really, really love that new couch.”