We were fortunate enough not to lose power during Hurricane Irene, so I proceeded with my original plan for the day – making pickles. We had picked about fifteen cucumbers from the garden a few days earlier and I needed to do something with them quickly before they went bad (note: we grew pickling cucumbers this year – H-19 Little Leaf from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. The last time I made pickles I used Boothby’s Blonde cucumbers, which are a pale yellow color, which I thought would be different and cool for a pickle. They are sweeter and taste better when eaten fresh (compared to the pickling cucumbers), but I don’t think they pickle all that well).
What I discovered a few years ago is that you don’t need vinegar to make pickles! They are much better fermented – they taste fresh and are not acidic. Here’s the basic rules I follow:
- Pickling Spices
- Dill – fresh or dried
The proportions I used below were for about 15 cucumbers and made roughly five quarts of pickles.
First, fill and rinse all your mason jars with boiling water to kill any bacteria – if you have a dishwasher, run them through a hot water cycle.
Next, boil about 4 cups of water with 6-8 tablespoons of coarse salt (I used sea salt). Make sure it is dissolved and add 12 cups of water to the salt solution – this is the brine you will use to ferment the cucumbers.
Next, cut up your cucumbers – I cut them in spears, but you can also cut them in circles – I’m blanking on the term used to describe this – sandwich pickle? Anyhow, fit as many as you can in each mason jar.
Next, lightly crush garlic and divide evenly between the jars – I put in two cloves per jar, but add more if you want extra-garlic pickles. Divide the pickling spice and dill evenly between each jar – I put in a little less than a tablespoon of each per jar.
Finally, fill all the jars with the brine so it covers the cucumbers. Lightly cover the jars (I covered the jars with cheesecloth, but you can also lightly put the lid on – you just want to make sure air gets in to aid the fermentation process). Store in a dark place for three to ten days – the longer you let them sit, the more sour they become, so it’s really just a taste preference. I will let mine sit about four or five days, because I like them to taste fresh.
Once they are ready, cover tightly in lids – they will last in the refrigerator for up to two months or so. If any of the jars develop an odor or start to look funky, stay on the safe side and discard them.