For the last several issues I’ve featured crappies with hot peppers. I was going to ease up on your taste buds… yes, but I have this unique recipe that spoke to me saying “cool crappie in the summertime – fish from the fridge.” What could be mo’ better? It’s hot but you can make it as mild or spicy as you like.

Pickle a Peck of Just About Anything
Pickling began about 4,000 years ago. The process was developed to preserve foods including veggies, fruit, fish and meats. Pickled foods, especially cucumbers, are made and eaten because of the wonderfully complex mouth-puckering tastes. Pickling may also improve the nutritional value of food by the B vitamins that bacteria produce.
The process of preserving foods is by anaerobic fermentation in brine or vinegar. The resulting food, be it a cucumber or crappie, is called a pickle. This method gives the food a salty or sour taste.
Pickled foods have a pH less than 4.6 (very acidic), sufficient to kill most bacteria and preserve perishable foods for months.
Unlike canning, pickling includes fermentation and does not require that the food be completely sterile before it is sealed. The acidity or salinity of the solution, the temperature of fermentation and the exclusion of oxygen determine which microorganisms dominate, and determine the flavor of the end product.
I love pickled fish. I usually buy herring but making this cool recipe for crappie is much better!

Pickled Crappie (or any fish)

3 1/2 pounds of crappie fillets (4 to 6 oz. each), skin removed
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
5-8 small whole dried hot chilies (to taste)
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup rose’ wine
1/4 cup canning or pickling salt
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
Freeze fish 48 hours at zero degrees F. Defrost. Cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Loosely layer fish, onion and chilies in two l-quart jars and one l-pint jar. Cover and chill.
In 2-quart saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Cool entirely. Pour pickling liquid over fish to cover. Seal jars, using two-part sealing lids. Refrigerate 10 days before serving. Store in refrigerator no longer than 4 weeks. Makes 2 quarts, 1 pint.

Tomato Pie*

9-inch piecrust
2 to 4 tomatoes
Dash seasoning
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/8 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cheddar cheese
Heat piecrust to 425 degrees for 5 minutes. Slice thickly tomatoes to cover bottom of piecrust and sprinkle with Dash seasoning. Sprinkle basil and chives over tomatoes. Mix mayonnaise with cheddar cheese spread over the top to seal tomatoes. Put in oven for 30 to 35 minutes at 400 degrees.

*Editor’s Note: This recipe came from The Tennessee Outdoorsmen Cookbook Jimmy Holt and Vernon Summerlin wrote in 2002.