Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In a (Home-Made) Pickle

I’m that friend who asks you for the pickle you have left untouched on your sandwich plate.  And my children are the ones who try to sneak the pickle off of my sandwich plate.  Perhaps its genetic, but one thing we all agree on in our family is that we really like pickles.  So, my son and I decided we’d figure out how to make our own.

And we discovered that it’s not so hard, once you’ve got the basics.
For 2 pounds of cucumbers:
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1 ½ TBS salt

Our first batch was with the pickling cucumbers (the short ones) from the grocery store.  When we bought more for the next batch, we realized that you have to make the pickles within days of buying the cucumbers because they mold quickly; we ended up throwing them all out.  We also bought fatter cucumbers from a farm market and they lasted for days on the counter without deteriorating at all.  For the summer months, I think we’ll continue with the fresh market cucumbers.

We experimented using plain white vinegar and apple vinegar for taste-testing.  The white vinegar was more vinegar-y, more of a “pickle” taste, whereas the apple was a slight sourness, with a bit more sweetness.  Our preference is the white vinegar.  We used sea salt, for no particular reason, over regular table salt.

After that, it’s a matter of figuring out your spices. We’ve made minced garlic a staple to our recipe and then we’re experimenting with red pepper flakes, dill seed, and fennel seed.  About a teaspoon – tablespoon of each, depending on your tastes and preferences.  Hint – check your favorite commercial pickles for ideas (although we realized the amount of preservatives and artificial flavors used in some by checking the labels.)

I keep recycled jars around – mostly used pickled jars - and a small supply of mason jars for canning. When re-using jars for anything, I like to wash pickle jars or any other strong smelling food jars in the dishwasher because that’s the best way to get the food smell out.  If using something like a jelly jar, you can wash in hot water.  For a couple pounds of cucumbers, you may need several jars, depending on their size.

Depending on the size of the cucumbers vs. the jar and your personal preference, the cucumbers can be used whole, cut lengthwise into halves of quarters, or sliced into “coins”.  They can also be chopped for relish, which is on our list to try.

Once you've decided on whole or sliced - you're ready to go.
  • Put the cucumbers in the jar, packing them in as tightly as possible.
  • Sprinkle in the spices of your choice.
  • Pour the vinegar/water/salt mixture over to fill the jar.  As we learned, there is very little capillary action in cucumbers, so if you do not have enough to fill the jar, you will need to turn it over after a few days and store it upside down to pickle the other half of the cucumbers.
  • Put the top on tightly and store in your refrigerator for about 5 days.

According to what I’ve read about pickling in the fridge, these should last you a few months.  However, I cannot verify that, as ours were gone within a week, and that was mainly because the kids paced themselves until we could get another batch going so there would be no lull in the pickle inventory.  If you have more cucumbers and want them to last longer, you may want to opt for a canning process (boiling the cucumber-filled jars) to make them last longer and to not take up all your refrigerator space.


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