I just love pickles. Sweet, sour, or half sour. Pickle relish. Piccalilli. Cornichons. Incendiary Lime Pickle. Branston Pickle. The more the merrier.
I don’t even know when I learned to make them. It seems I always have. I remember having a vat of pickles in the closet of my college apartment. The sweet pickle of my childhood.
Then I learned about half sour (lacto-fermented) cucumber pickles – so easy to make, one jar at a time. That led to sauerkraut and kimchi for the healthy reasons and so much more. These terrific briny foods work for me.
Yes, all that lacto fermenting is wonderful, but when the cucumbers of summer are gone, and it’s impossible to find anything but those suspiciously plastic wrapped seedless things, it’s great to see quarts of homemade dill pickles on the shelf.
My dill pickle recipe is still evolving after at least 30 years of tinkering. There are no fewer than 12 sketched out recipes for dill pickles in my files. There are several reasons for this. Each year, I go to the file, take out all the recipes, can’t remember which one I like, fiddle around with something that is an amalgam of all the recipes. Write nothing down. By the time the pickles have aged, and I’ve tried them, it’s the best pickle I’ve ever made, and I can’t recall what the heck I’ve done.
There have been many years of experiments – some of which went weirdly awry. One year, all the garlic turned turquoise blue- a reaction of the garlic with certain metals. One more reason to select stainless steel, enamel or glass/ceramic dishes and cookware when you pickle.
Here are some of my favorite tips to ensure success with your pickles.
Choose Kirby, Pickling or Persian cucumbers for great results. For chips, you can use larger cucumbers, but whatever variety you choose, they must not be waxed.
Once harvested, cucumbers deteriorate really fast. So select carefully – you want them to be firm and straight (easier to pack in the jar) and very very fresh. Once you have them home, pickle them right away.
Soak cucumbers in a big bowl of ice water for an hour before pickling. A cooler works well if you are working on a big batch. Make sure the cucumbers are very cold before the hot brine is poured over, because that’s what makes for a super crispy pickle.
The blossom end must be trimmed away. There’s something in the blossom end that can soften your pickles. Limp pickles. Yuck. I know it can be challenging trying to figure out/remember which is the blossom end, so just go ahead and trim both ends – what the heck!
If you have a lot of cucumbers, make whole pickles, spears and chips, separately or all mixed up in the jars. It’s nice to have variety.
Use only bottled water. Tap water is full of all sorts of minerals and in some areas, chlorine. These trace elements will really alter the taste of a briny pickle.
Use the best salt, not iodized. Sea salt, kosher salt and pickling salt all work well.
Let’s Can Together on August 13th!
The Ball Canning Company sent me a big box of goodies for National Can-It-Forward Day, a collaborative project with Canvolution (Canning Across America.) On August 13th, we will celebrate preserving by holding canning parties and other canning events all across the country. I’ll be teaching a Tomato Canning Class at The Kitchen Studio in Frederick.
To help you host your own Canning Party, I’ve got a Ball Home Canning Discovery Kit to give away. And a funnel, jar lifter, different pectin types, spice packages and more. There are so many goodies in this box, I can’t wait to share it. And I’ll include the recipe packs from my latest classes – for pickles and for jam.
Did you know Ball is now making pectins available in larger containers? It’s great for those of us who do small batch preserving – it’s possible to measure out what you need for as few as two jars. Smart. Very smart.
When I saw the dill pickle mix, I had just come from Norman’s farmstand with a basket full of gorgeous pickling cucumbers, and just had to try it out. After years of fiddling around, these dill pickles smell just right. They need a couple more weeks before I’ll be able to taste them, but I am very, very hopeful. Can it really be that simple? Yes, it can.
Leave a comment, tell me how you feel about pickles! I’ll use Randomizer to choose the lucky winner on August 1st. You’ll have your canning kit in time for National Can it Forward Day.
And here are some recipes you might want to try on August 13th. C’mon, let’s Can It Forward!
Sweet Pickle Relish
Luvey’s Sweet Pickle Chips
Lacto-fermented Half Sours
Healthy Green Kitchen – kimchi
Food in Jars – Blueberry Ginger Jam
What Julia Ate – Apricot Blueberry Jam
Glutton for Life – Elderflower Cordial
In the meantime, without any canning at all, you can make these quick pickled red onions and serve them on just about everything. Tacos. Burgers. Eggs. Sausages. With cheese. As a garnish for black beans. These “quickles” take about twenty minutes to put together. They hold in the refrigerator for weeks, but they never last that long in my house.
Quickled Red Onions
Thank you, Neven Martell from the Washington Post for introducing me to the word quickle. It’s made me giggle ever since.
2 medium red onions
3/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar, unseasoned
3/4 filtered water
1 Tbls salt
1 Tbls sugar
1 Tbls pickling spice (I make my own, but commercial is fine.)
1 tsp crushed red pepper, if you want some heat
Slice the onions into very thin half moons.
Put the onions in a glass or ceramic bowl, or pack them into a clean pint jar.
Add the pickling spice to the jar, and crushed red pepper, if desired.
Heat the vinegar, water, salt, sugar in a saucepan until the salt and sugar have dissolved and the brine begins to boil.
Pour the warm brine over the onions. Let them sit for 20 minutes or even an hour.
And they’re ready to serve.
Refrigerate to store.
(if you want to make your own)
1 tsp galangal
1 T allspice
2 tsp coriander seed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 T mustard seed
2″ cinnamon stick
Combine well. Crush stick and seeds a little. Store in a jar for one pickling season.