Cambrian: Opinion

Culinary Corner: Pickle juice as miracle cure

Consuelo Macedo cooks on Happy Hill in Cambria
Consuelo Macedo cooks on Happy Hill in Cambria

I received an e-mail the other day about the effectiveness of taking a dose of pickle juice to relieve the discomfort of a sudden leg cramp. The study concluded that it did indeed work, but the surveyors could not explain why. I contend that “ours is not to reason why,” but to accept and embrace the old-time remedy.

Yes, old-time, because my mother told me how that had helped her, and she’d learned of it from the seniors in her mobile home park who were similarly afflicted. Good thing I knew also, because I was sitting at a low table at my daughter-in-law’s when a massive charlie-horse in one leg struck me so severely I couldn’t get up, straighten up or talk. I was able to gasp, “Quick, bring me some vinegar.”

Chikako without question ran to the kitchen and brought a small bowl of cider vinegar and a cloth. You should have seen her expression when I quickly drank it down. She was astonished that I wasn’t applying it to my leg with the cloth, and was equally astonished when the astringent drink immediately relieved the cramping. I was okay in minutes.

I have made a believer out of other friends when the same thing happened in their homes. Nancy Sleeman provided me

with what was available— a quarter cup of white vinegar; and Kathy Preciado said she had only balsamic vinegar. They both worked. So did rice wine vinegar at daughter Kathy’s; and on a return trip to Chika’s, dill pickle juice.

So I am living proof of the efficacy of all these, including the pickle juice, and have written to the originators of the study. I travel with a 2-ounce plastic bottle of cider vinegar for emergencies, and my granddaughters Yuhi and Miumi make sure I do. There’s a lot to be said about the wisdom and experience of our elders.

Gloria Fiscalini served up traditional Swiss-Italian Torta at the annual polenta dinner to benefit the historic Old Santa Rosa Chapel on the hill above East Village, tweaking only slightly the recipe from her grandmother Leonilda. She bakes this in a large buttered pan, but if you use “normal sized pans,” you can cut the baking time a little.

Take one stale (hard) loaf of French bread and break it into pieces. Place in a large bowl and soak with a half gallon of whole milk overnight. Add one cube* of melted butter, stir and then add four beaten eggs; mix well. Add one cup of white sugar, one cup of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, one teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, and two teaspoons of vanilla.

Mix thoroughly, and stir in one cup of raisins and 1/2 pint container of citron (can also use candied lemon peel) and 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for half an hour, then turn down to 275 degrees and cook for another 2 and 1/2 hours. Serve warm or cooled, plain or with whipped cream or ice cream.

*Note the term “cube of butter,” which I always used, until modernists noted that the quarter-pound shape is not actually cubic, so it is now called a “stick” of butter. I don’t know how long this has been going on, and I continually lapse into the original appellation. How about you?

Please send your recipes to Consuelo, c/o The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or e-mail to