To me, a good pickle is the convergence of all things inherently wonderful in cuisine. How can you go wrong with crispy, fresh cucumbers, garlic, dill, and spices? Through the miracle of fermentation, this humble green vegetable is not only preserved long past its normal shelf life, but transformed into a savory, briny treat that is perfect for summer picnics and barbeques. Now that your salivary glands have started into overdrive, gather the following materials and ingredients to get your pickle project started:
-One or two quart glass mason jars with lids and caps.
-Fresh pickling cucumbers, preferably small enough to be able to pack a fair number into the jars.
-Coarse salt (Kosher or ice-cream salt)
-Fresh dill (Use the whole plant and trim off any woody sections)
-Mixed pickling spices
-Crushed red pepper (optional)
-Green beans (optional)
-Small fresh green tomatoes (optional)
1. Soak the pickling cucumbers in cold water, drain dry. Do not use hot soap and water as that will kill the necessary bacteria for fermentation.
2. Pack the cucumbers, beans, and tomatoes into the jars.
3. Add to each jar:
-1-2 tsp pickling spices per quart (optional 1/2-1tsp of crushed red pepper).
-2 Pressed garlic cloves per quart (more or less to taste).
-Lots of fresh dill on top.
4. Add salt water to brim of jars. Make the salt water brine by adding 1 cup of coarse salt per gallon of water. Tip: To dissolve the salt easily, add part of the water to all of the salt, stir, pour off the clear solution, add more fresh water, and repeat until all of the water is used.
5. Place lids and caps on jars, keeping the amount of air to a minimum. Screw lids closed, but not too tightly as some gas will be produced in the process of fermentation.
6. Store the jars in a cool place. Place them on a tray in the event of liquid overflow. Every 2-3 days, add more salt water as needed to replace lost fluids.
7. Fermentation should be complete after 10 days. After this time, carefully top off each jar to the brim with salt water, making sure that the lip of the jar and lid are free of spices or dill which could create leaks. Tighten the cap securely. Store the jars in a cool, cold place. The flavor will be mature in four weeks.
Voila! Your little delicacies will keep for up to a year as long as caps create a strong seal.
Special thanks to Aaron Novick for his recipe, and to Nikki Jacobi for passing it along!