Friday, July 17, 2009

Dill Pickles!

I just love this time of year when I can feast directly from the produce coming into the restaurant without having to cook anything! And among my favorite feasting items are cucumbers. A cucumber right off the vine is a wholly different beast than you're used to eating, if you get your cukes from a traditional grocery store.

I love the little Kirby pickling cucumbers for pickles, but right now I'm blessed with a bumper crop of what we call Eurocukes in the trade, the long, slender largely seedless, so-called burpless cucumbers with the tender skins. Not only do I love eating these cukes out of hand, I also love to make pickles with them (or any cucumbers for that matter).

I know that the legion of putting-by cookbooks treat pickling as an exact science, but what I've learned after making hundreds of batches of cucumber pickles is that for fresh, refrigerated pickles, any old attempt at winging it will result in a tasty product.

Here then is my winging it for today. While my gallon of brine was coming to a boil, I sliced a bunch of cucumbers (about 10) and layered them in my bin with roughly mashed cloves of garlic (about 24), heads of dill (about 16), and a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper (about a teaspoon). Note how much head room I am leaving in my bin. That's important later on.

Pickle Brine

3 quarts water
1 quart vinegar
1 cup Kosher salt

Once the brine comes to a boil, pour it over the cucumbers until they are covered, still leaving plenty of head room. You should have a quart or a quart and a half of brine leftover. Let the remaining brine cool down so that you can handle it without burning yourself for the next step.

Fill a large plastic bag with the cooled brine, press all the air out of the bag, and seal the bag. Lay the bag over the wannabe pickles to seal the bin. Refrigerate. These pickles are good to eat at any time, but I like to let them sit at least a week. Naturally, they will keep for months.

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