It’s summertime. Not really, but if I can wear shorts three days out of the week, close enough.
On these hot so-called summer days, I like a cold pickle. Not the stork brand, or the green labeled brand, or the thinly sliced gigundo mutant ones. Have you seen these freak pickles? They are the size of my hand and meant to completely cover a burger. I’m telling you, no good can come from this.
I’m talking about pickles that I slaved over to provide for my household. And when I say household, I mean me because my wife doesn’t eat them. And when I say slaved, I mean, for like, 15 minutes.
Right now I have 3 quarts of kirby cukes pickling away. Its fairly easy to do and yields really tasty results.
First a quick definition: according to Harold McGee, a pickle is “a food preserved by immersion in brine or a strong acid.” ‘Food’ covers everything edible, so let’s say vegetables for our purposes.
There are two different types of pickles: fermented and unfermented. Fermented pickles are created using a seasoned brine (usually 5% as per Michael Ruhlman in “Charcuterie”) and time. The brine acts as a shield to protect against harmful bacteria while the natural acids created by fermentation do their work. Left to their own devices in a cool spot, pickles will ferment in about 7-10 days. Unfermented pickles use the acids in the brine as the pickling agent.
I prefer unfermented refrigerator dill pickles. They keep for a while and are super tasty. They take longer, but this way I’m not leaving vegetables on the counter for a week.
You’ll need a couple of things: water, salt, pickling spice, vinegar, peppercorns, dill and your vegetables.
I have adapted the “Charcuterie” recipe to fit my taste. Here’s what I do:
Combine the following and boil for 3 minutes:
65 gr kosher salt
4 oz vinegar (I use whatever I have on hand excluding cider vinegar)
3 gr peppercorns
10 gr pickling spice (you can buy or make yourself)
40 oz water
Cool completely and pour over:
10 baby pickles
1 bunch of fresh dill
3 cloves of garlic
If you have a container large enough, you can just pickle one big batch. I don’t, so I use the quart containers from our Wanton soups and usually wind up with 3 smaller batches.
Let the pickles sit in your fridge for 3 weeks. Check them every once and a while to make sure that everything is submerged.
As I said above, they keep for a while; I’m not exactly sure how long ‘cuz I eat them pretty quick-like, but the conventional wisdom says a month or so. Secretly, a cold beer goes really well with that pickle.
Was this too much for you? Too hard? Too complicated? How about a quick pickle then?
Combine equal parts of enough wine and the same colored wine vinegar to cover your veg (i.e. red wine/red wine vinegar, white wine/white wine vinegar). Add salt and sugar to create a briny/sweet concoction. Add 3-4 tablespoons of your favorite pickling spices and boil for 3 minutes.
Stop. Decision time: depending on what you texture you want to achieve and what vegetable you’re pickling, you can cool the pickling liquid, or apply hot directly to the veg. For instance, I would pour the hot liquid over carrots and cauliflower and cool on the counter to soften them a little before stashing them in the fridge. Alternatively, radishes get soft and wilty if you don’t cool the pickling liquid first. Your choice.
Either way, the next step is to chill overnight.
Both techniques produce excellent results. You can play around with the quick pickle and really hone it in if you want. I usually use the quick pickle method for garnishes for salads.