We interrupt the onslaught of peach preserving recipes to bring you something completely different: pickles! OK, so not completely different. Beef tartare au gratin would be completely different (not to mention hilarious). But I don’t eat beef (Sorry, Julia) and what I have is a kitchen overflowing with summer produce. So: pickles it is.
The first time I made pickles was two summers ago, which was also the first time I grew a garden. I had a very prolific cucumber vine, that was producing a big, fat, green cuke nearly every day, and that I had planted specifically because Tai had asked me if I could make him pickles. “Of course I can!” I replied, confident in my cluelessness. “Pickles: cucumbers & brine, right? Maybe some dill? How hard can it be?” she said, jauntily brandishing her garden trowel. Little did I know. Pickles, you see, are made from pickling cucumbers (hence the name), not from field cucumbers, which are too soft to hold up to the long storage in brine. Who knew there was more than one type of cucumber? Not I. I had grown field, or salad cucumbers, not the pickling variety; hence we ate a lot of cucumber tomato feta that summer. Undeterred, my first step was to source pickling cucumbers. Often called Kirby cukes, pickling cucumbers are typically shorter (about 6 inches long) than the usual field cucumber, fatter, with bumpier skin that may show residual spines, and yellow streaks that are the natural coloring of the vegetable. You can find them at farmer’s markets all summer long (I find mine at The Hickories, Holbrook Farm or at Gossett’s). My next step? Find the most difficult and complicated pickle in all of the Ball Book: the fermented Deli Dill. Check. In typical fashion, knowing nothing about anything, I jumped in with both feet and made bowl after bowl of fermented pickles that year: Tai loved them (still does) but had I known any better, I might (just might) have made life a little easier and went with this easy, peasy, breezy, slice-’em-and-seal-’em sandwich pickle.
This pickle, my friends, could not be easier. Other than pickling cucumbers, there are no fancy ingredients to source: you can make it with what is in a typical pantry. You don’t have to can it: these will last for ages refrigerated. You can make any amount you like: from 1 pint jar to dozens. The spices are added to each jar individually, so you can tweak your recipe each time and develop the spice combination that you like best. Best of all, you can put these together in less time than it takes to assemble a salad: 10 minutes in the canner, and you’ve successfully preserved the bounty of summer. You will be so proud of yourself come February when you crack open a jar of August cucumber pickles. If you are intrigued by the idea of preserving seasonal food, yet haven’t quite found the time, energy or inspiration to make it happen: this is your recipe. Go forth this weekend, find ye a farmer’s market, and make these pickles. Pickle lovers (and pickle farmers!) the world over will thank you.
Brine proportions adapted from Marisa’s recipe for Garlic Dill Pickles.
- 10 large pickling cucumbers (about 4 lbs)
Flavorings per jar
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp coriander seed
- 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 dried Arbol chiles (or other dried chile pepper), stems removed
- 4 cups filtered water
- 3 cups white vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
- 1 cup cider vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
- 6 tbsp pickling salt (or Kosher salt, which may yield a cloudy brine, but is safe to use; table salt may discolor pickles due to added iodine)
- 2 tbsp honey
- If canning, prepare canner, jars and lids. To make packing the pickles easier, I start with clean, unsterilized and room-temperature jars.
- Combine brine ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil gently until salt dissolves; keep at a low boil.
- Wash and slice pickles into long spears. Add spices to the bottom of each jar; pack pickle slices in tightly, leaving a generous 1-inch of headspace.
- Pour brine over cucumbers to 1/2-inch headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Alternatively, add brine to cover cucumbers, affix lids and refrigerate. For best flavor, allow to pickle in the brine for 2 to 4 weeks before eating, although pickle flavor will be evident in as little as 2 days. Happy pickling!
Yields 8 pints pickles.
- Pickles for refrigeration can be stored in any appropriate glass, plastic or ceramic container: avoid metal as it reacts with the vinegar in the brine. Commercial pickle jars, quart-sized plastic soup containers, washed-and-repurposed tomato sauce jars are all good ideas. Mason jars for canning can be found at most hardware stores and many larger supermarkets in summer: pint or quart sizes are best for these pickles.
- According to Alison & Tai, these pickles are spicy, garlicky and sweeter than my fermented pickles. They do not taste like the classic pickle because of the lack of dill, nevertheless, they were apparently delicious. Feel free to adjust the spices per jar to suit your palate.
- In the brine, I would have used 2 cups white vinegar to 2 cup cider vinegar if I had not run out of the cider.
- The honey gives these pickles a sweet flavor which both Ali & Tai really enjoyed; if you don’t like any sweetness to your pickles, feel free to omit.
- For the more ambitious locavore, the pickles can be made with 100% local ingredients using: homemade cider vinegar (be sure to test that it is at least 5% acidity), local cucumbers, garlic and fresh or dried chile peppers, local salt (iodine in natural sea salt may discolor brine), and local spices: corinader (seed pods from bolted cilantro plants) and Poor Man’s Pepper (wild mustard seed).
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Will last for months refrigerated.