It's Pickle Time - Garlic Dill Pickles

Garlic Dill Pickles - one day old

It's that time of year again.  If you've planted cucumbers in your garden, then they are probably producing prolifically.  If you don't have your own cucumbers, a trip to the nearest market or grocery store will yield box after box of them - the best of which are bright green and small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.  The bigger ones don't tend to have as good a flavor, nor do they can as well as the smaller, crisper models.

I planted cucumber in my garden at the cabin - but too close to the dominant patty pan squash plant.  The squash grew up and out, leaving the slower growing cucumber in its shadow all day long, resulting in a very pathetic look plant...and no cucumbers.

But!  For the first time ever last Saturday, the local Herttoniemi food group hosted a Pop-up market just a few kilometers from our place.  We biked down there on Saturday morning for when it opened at 10 AM, and there were a dozen or so stands with local honey, fruit, bread, meat - and piles and piles of organic vegetables - each one better looking the last and at fantastic prices.  After loading up on fennel, rutabaga, carrots and celery so I could make a fresh batch of Homemade Bouillon, I came to the table with organic pickling cucumbers.  First I bought just two.  For 50 cents.  Then I stood there looking at the still overflowing box and couldn't resist and bought 2 kilos more for making pickles.

Cooling off - love the look of the dill head in the jars

There are hundreds of pickle recipes in the online world.  Whom do you trust?  Where do you start?  There are a couple of blogs whose recipes have served me well recently, whose writing is entertaining and whose directions are clear.  I started with Use Real Butter, where I found she'd pickled okra using  her own pickling spice using the Food in Jars recipe (Marissa has a new book out by that name, as well as a blog  - well worth a look at both).  On the Food in Jars blog, I found a basic pickles recipe, and decided to put the two together.  The recipe below is slightly modified from Marissa's, but the vast majority of the credit and inspiration goes to her.

We let the pickles stand 24 hours and couldn't stand looking at them any longer without a taste, so we cracked open the jar tonight and enjoyed them with a slice of Havarti on Archipelago Bread.  These are unequivocally the best pickles I've ever made.  They are a refrigerator pickle - meaning that you don't can them with a hot water bath.  You'll still need to sterilize the jars (I either run mine through a hot dishwasher, or heat the oven to 225°F/125°C and cook them for 15 minutes to sterilize them) and you'll still need to heat the lids for at least 10 minutes in pot of simmering water before sealing the jars.  These are nevertheless completely uncomplicated to make and have such a fantastic flavor, that the five 3/4 quart/liter jars that I  thought would last us most of the winter don't stand a chance of making it to Christmas I don't think.  I'd better get back to the market...


Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles
mildly adapted from the methods found in Food in Jars

1.  Get the jars ready:
Wash your jars and lids, and sterilize them using the process of your choosing.  Keep them hot either by holding them in a warm oven (my preferred method) or by filling them with boiling water.  I used five 740 ml / 3 cup glass canning jars for this recipe - but you can use whichever size you wish.  In step 4, just make sure you have enough of these ingredients for each jar.

2.  Pickling Spice:
 Make your pickling spice (this is modified from Food in Jars - I used a fresh dill head instead of the seed, and omitted the cinnamon stick altogether.  If you use dill seed, the dill flavor will be stronger.  You can find the original ingredients list here).

3 tablespoons crushed bay leaves
3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons whole allspice
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons mustard seeds
3 tablespoons juniper berries
1 tablespoon whole cloves

Mix all the ingredients together in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid - shake to combine all of the ingredients.

3.  Pickling Brine:
In a medium sized pot on the stove, combine:
5 cups apple vinegar or apple cider vinegar
5 cups cold water
7 tablespoons pickling salt or sea salt

Heat the mixture over medium heat until the salt dissolves and it just begins to boil.  Remove from heat and set aside.

4.  Cucumbers:
Thoroughly wash 2 kg / 4.5 lbs of cucumbers, being careful to remove all sand and dirt from the bumpy skin.  Cut both ends off of each cucumber and discard.  Slice the remaining cucumbers into thin slices and set aside in a large bowl.

5.  Assembly:
In the bottom of each jar place:
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
1/4 peeled shallot
1 tablespoon Pickling Spice (above)
1 fresh dill crown

Tightly pack the cucumber slices into each jar, leaving about 1.75 cm / 1/2" of head space.  Once each jar has been filled with cucumber, ladle the hot brine over the cucumber slices until they are just covered by the liquid.  Push a chopstick or a small butter knife down the insides of the jars to coax any remaining air bubbles to the surface.  Wipe the lid of the jar with a clean cloth, seal with a hot lid, (or ring + lid if using -  can't find those in Europe!) tightening the lid to just finger tight.  Once all the jars have been sealed, set aside and let them stand overnight with out disturbing.  Rattling them just makes them unhappy, so let them rest for a while.

Let the pickles sit for at least 24 hours before tasting.  Store in the refrigerator.  Makes five 750 ml / 3/4 quart jars.

Crispy, crunchy Garlic Dill Pickles.  Well worth the wait.

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