Monday, September 9, 2013

Cucumber Pickles (The Old Fashioned Way)

Today I had to deal with the cucumbers sitting on my counter before they turned into chicken food.  We like cucumbers fresh, but there's no way we could eat this many (and dozens of blossoms still on the plants...) so I turned a bunch into pickles.  I believe the current way to do pickles is to fast-ferment them with vinegar and then can them, but I'm into old fashioned, and old fashioned means actually fermenting them in a salt brine, on the counter.  So here is the sink full of cucumbers...I put them in ice water because it firms them back up after they started to get a little wimpy.  Unless they're fresh picked, this is the way to go for added crunch:

cucumbers in ice water
Then you slice them up to whatever size you like to eat, or whatever fits in the jar, making sure to cut the ends off.  Sliced ones pickle faster, and they also make it possible to fit more in the jar.  I used quart jars this time, so I wanted to make them smaller so they "jig-sawed" well.

I didn't take any pictures of this part, but after you slice them up, you add 1 t. dill SEED (not dill weed) and if you like a garlic twist, you can add 2-3 garlic cloves.  Last year we followed a recipe that called for 3 cloves per quart, and we didn't like it, so this year I did two jars without garlic, and two with a clove and a half, to see which we prefer.  Then add 1/4 t. black tea-- the tannins in the tea help keep the pickles crunchier.  You can use grape leaves for this, but I don't know too many people who keep those on hand...

Then you pour brine over it, leaving about 1" headspace.  The brine is basically salt water.  6 T. sea salt in 8 c. water is the ratio for a basic brine, and you just dissolve it and pour what you need over the cucumbers.  Hot water works quickest to dissolve it, but let it cool to room temp before using it so it doesn't kill the good bacteria you need for the ferment. (The salt kills the bad bacteria.) Then put a regular mouth canning lid in the jar to keep the cucumbers under the brine (the fermenting is an anaerobic process; there are fancy little lids you can buy for this that allow gas to escape but don't let air in, but there's no need to spend money on such things).  Then put a large lid and ring on to make it airtight.

fermenting pickles, fermenting cucumbers

And then you have a cool new kitchen decoration!  These jars should be ready to eat in about a week, although with any fermentation that's totally dependent on your taste preference.  I'll open the lids once a day to let any gases loose (no explosions allowed, please...) These will need to be kept in the fridge after they're done, since they aren't canned.  The salt brine will keep them safe to eat for a LONG time as long as they're kept cold.  If I had a cold cellar I wouldn't have to commit fridge space to them and we could be REALLY old fashioned and have a barrel of dill pickles sitting in the basement all winter.  But...I just have a basement.  With central heating.  Drat modern conveniences, anyway.

Well, that's twenty minutes of my day gone. Guess I'll have to keep being productive since that took so little time.  :-D


  1. I was going to make some of these! Picked fresh pickling cukes at my mom's, picked some grape leaves from her vines... then forgot the grape leaves, tired myself out making bread and butter pickles from the oversized cukes late at night, and forgot the little guys in the fridge until they went slimy. Oops.

  2. You're too funny. :-D But you made SOME pickles, that still counts!

  3. Can't wait to try a bite! The cloves ones sound better than garlic (IMHO).

  4. Oh. Really? Well, that doesn't sound near as good as regular cloves. I thought you'd come up with something different. Sigh.

    I meant to compliment you on your new corner decor. I like it.