Pickles

It’s toward the end of the season for pickling cucumbers here. I made one batch of dill pickles early in August, a bottle of fermented dills, a small batch of bread and butter pickles (thanks Heather for the recipe) and I am going in search of cucumbers today at the market. I saw them yesterday at the grocery store, so I’m hopeful that I’ll find some more.

Here is my recipe. I vary the spices, sometimes adding some mustard seed, coriander seed, ginger, jalapeno, bay leaf, but it’s pretty simple.

It’s a combination of several recipes and includes a collection of tips for crunchy pickles.

  • Baba’s Dill Pickles (from More Food that Really Schmecks by Edna Staebler) – this the first recipe I tried. I had a few fizzy pickles. This recipe was not hot water bath processed. This recipe says to put grape leaves in the jars and includes horseradish. I’ve read several places that the tannins in the grape leaves help to keep the pickles crunchy.
  • Dill Pickles by Sharon Howard – a nice simple recipe
  • This Mennonite recipe by Katherine Born was hard to track down again. Her instructions are very thorough and I adjusted my brine closer to her proportions. She recommends trimming off the blossom end of the cucumbers. She says you can avoid soft pickles by stuffing the jars, adding hot water or brine and waiting 10 minutes, followed by draining and adding hot brine. Instead, I began to soak the cucumbers in just boiled water for 10 minutes and then stuff them into jars. I think this makes it easier to stuff the cukes into the jars as well. Her recipe emphasizes the importance of stuffing the cukes as tightly as possible.
  • Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles – I like the tip here to sort the cucumbers as you wash them so you can more easily stuff them into jars.

Here are my brined dills to be fermented with raspberry leaf instead of grape leaf for the same purpose. My insufficient watering of my grape vine over the hot summer left me with brown shrivelled grape leaves. Luckliy, I had some raspberry leaves to try out. 

10 days later on the counter, we have definite signs of fermentation happening! I’ve caught the fermentation bug and am fermenting small batches of sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha.

Food science says that removing the blossom end of the cucumber is important for crunchy pickles because it removes enzymes that make the cucumbers soften. Grape leaves are optional if you trim off the blossom end because they work by inhibiting the same enzymes. It is no surprise that fresh cucumbers are the most important factor in making a good pickle. For my next batch, I may leave out the leaves. Here I go to find some cucumbers!

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