Friday, July 1, 2011

Homemade pickles

A couple of months ago, my sister LC came out for a weekend to visit Miss B and me while DP was off doing his thing for the month of March. As usual when LC visits, much jollity ensued, as well as copious amounts of goofing off. Our joy was unrestrained when, on Saturday morning, Miss B’s soccer game was cancelled, allowing us free rein to gallivant into Kansas City and carry out the following agenda:

1. Lunch at PF Chang’s (GF Chinese food makes LC happy).
2. Wandering into various clothing stores on Country Club Plaza (and mostly cringing at the hideousness of what we found there).
3. Paying homage at The Better Cheddar.
4. Zipping over to Fairway so we could browse around Rainy Day Books and then clean out the Easter candy display at Russell Stover.

(This, by the way, is pretty much my dream day out: food, wandering around, more food, books, oh and look, some more food. If I could somehow remove the need to shop for clothes from my life and just focus on the other stuff, my cup would runneth over.)

While we were in The Better Cheddar, I was as usual glued to the cheese cases, re-stocking my supplies and eating as many free samples as I could get away with. LC, on the other hand, was browsing the gourmet groceries around the perimeter, and, fellow pickle-fiend that she is, was drawn to the display of McClure’s Pickles. I had passed this by many times, having once stopped to pick up a jar and almost fainted from sticker shock. LC, on the other hand, was on vacation, already predisposed to spend money like a drunken sailor, and didn’t bat an eyelash at paying $11.99 for a jar of processed cucumbers. Lucky me, she even shared them when we got home, and it only took one bite for us to agree that these pickles were worth every penny.

Henceforth they have become known as the “gold-plated pickles”, which I treat myself to once a month or so and which LC craves from afar, since she can’t get them in Boston. Despite my continued willingness to shell out for these, however, I have wondered periodically if I couldn’t produce something comparable at home. After all, what are pickles? They’re cucumbers, in brine, with flavoring.

Well, guess what? It’s cucumber season. And here’s the report on my first batch: success! For my next trick, I’m going to can them. And maybe even mail some to Boston (which I bet will still beat the specialty-shop price tag).

Refrigerator pickles
Adapted freely from Food in Jars
I used the basic proportions from the original recipe, but swapped in fresh dill for dill seeds, doubled the amount of garlic, and swapped spring onion for hot pepper flakes. I like mine garlicky and a little spicy.

1 quart pickling cucumbers (approximately 1.5 lbs/3.3 kg)
3/4 cup/180 ml apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup/180 ml filtered water
2 tsp/10 g sea salt
large bunch fresh dill, roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 large pinches hot pepper flakes

Equipment: 2 clean pint jars with lids

Wash the cucumbers, cut off the ends, and slice into thick wedges.

In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. While this mixture is heating up, divide the remaining ingredients between two clean pint jars, and then stuff each with half of the cucumber wedges.

When the brine has boiled, pour half into each jar. Screw on the lids and refrigerate for at least 2 days before sampling.


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