I used to absolutely detest pickles. When living in California my parents and I would go out to some of the best delis where they always started their meal with a plate of pickles. Almost like a palate cleanser. With the fact that I didn’t like them I of course pushed them away and did not eat them. I never understood why they liked them and would wince at every crunch. Fast forward to my current state of mind and way of eating. Seeing as I pretty much eat every vegetable under the sun (except Kale) now I love pickles. Kind of like a switch went off in my brain.
Something about the refreshing crisp crunch followed by that soothing briny taste that tingles on the tongue is just so enticing to me.
When making pickles some people choose to make them with vinegar, which is delicious and perfectly fine but I prefer to make mine the old fashioned way and actually allow them to ferment naturally. By doing so you get a slightly tart flavor added to the briny taste of the pickles along with the growth of beneficial cultures known as probiotics that are important for gut health and improve digestion, which are the same kind you would find in sauerkraut, yogurt or any other cultured food. So yes, these pickles actually become better for you as they ferment.
The most important property to me, and I would assume to most pickle lovers is the crispy crunch when you first bite into a pickle. That is always a good foundation on determining whether or not that green and bumpy cucumber is a proper pickle. I have probably made pickles at least 4 times before ever actually getting crisp pickles the way that I like them. I had read and tried some things like putting in an oak leaf or grape leaf and various other ideas to “help keep the pickles crunchy”. I could never figure out what was wrong with mine until I spoke to my girlfriend’s father Jason (whom actually does canning regularly and knows what he’s talking about) about how he did his pickles.
He was adamant about keeping his actual recipe from me, which I respect, but he did tell me that the real way to keep a pickle crisp is to make sure that it is as absolutely fresh as possible. And not just from the grocery store fresh but picked off the vine that day or maybe the day before. This piece of advice single handedly fixed my problem with my pickles, now I have pickles so perfectly crunchy that you can’t even hear someone yelling from across the room when your eating them.
Flavoring your pickles is not limited to using dill and making the most commonly known dill pickle. In fact I actually didn’t make dill pickles in my most recent pickle endeavor and actually really enjoyed the change in taste. Don’t get me wrong, I love dill pickles, but I also have enjoyed experimenting with the different flavors and have seem to have found a couple new favorites. Because of that I went ahead an included a couple of the different flavors I tried but I recommend doing a couple of batches of these pickles and trying some of your own additions to put in like chili flakes and different kinds of mustard seeds mustard seeds. The possibilities are limitless.
- 3-4 pickling cucumbers (4-5 inches long each and as fresh as you can get them)
- 3 cups water
- 1½ tablespoons sea salt
- 2 cloves of garlic smashed
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 large sprigs of dill
- 1½ teaspoons black peppercorns
- ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
- Heat water in a sauce pot over medium heat and stir in sea salt until dissolved then immediately take off the heat and allow to cool completely; this is your brine.
- In a clean and empty quart sized mason jar place your flavoring choice from above (my favorite flavoring or dill pickles, be sure you only pick one or the other not both if you wish to try both you may want to do two or more batches) in the bottom. Cut any stems or flower off the ends of the pickling cucumbers and add them to the mason jar squeezing them in tightly but without squishing or bruising them.
- Pour the brine into the mason jar so that the cucumbers are completely submersed and there is ½-1 inch of head space. Place a pinch bowl on top to keep them submersed in the brine. (They will shrink slightly over time and float up and the pinch bowl is used to keep them from coming out of the brine.
- Place the lid on to the mason jar loosely so that it's covered and nothing is allowed to go in but air can still escape because it will release bubbles as it ferments. Leave it out at room temperature and let it ferment for 9-10 days.
- Remove the pinch bowl and taste now if you desire. Screw on lid and refrigerate for up to 3-4 weeks. (I'm sure they last longer but they have never stayed in the fridge that long.)
Note on the cloudiness of the brine as they ferment: The brine will get cloudy as it ferments so don't be alarmed when it does, that is a sign of a healthy and good ferment. There is no need to fear naturally fermented foods, if your worried trust your nose, if it's not good you WILL know when you smell it. When they're done they should smell like, well, pickles!