Tuesday, August 10, 2010

a fine pickle

I've been pickling cucumbers this month - this time, in 3 ways.

I usually do a batch using the recipe I like from my mother-in-law. Based entirely on past successes and the fact that she's done it that way for a generation, I treat the jars as something that are shelf-stable in a cool pantry or basement as long as I get a seal when the jars have cooled off. (I don't process them in a boiling water canner or anything, but I do start with sterile jars, add well-scrubbed cucumbers, and pour the brine over it all when it's still boiling. Then I let it cool gradually and it creates a seal.) They are vinegar pickles with enough salt and sugar in them that I'm happy enough with non-refrigerated storage, but I'm no expert.

This year I wanted to try two new kinds too:

Kosher dills, fermented on their own with no vinegar - you put them in a brine of the right strength, keep them somewhere cool for a few days, and, er... hope they don't get moldy. The first batch, I didn't weigh down properly, the cukes stuck up from the brine, and the whole top was too modly to believe I could salvage - but at least I could smell that the lactic acid fermentation was working too - so tempting, but not what I was willing to eat. The second one I way overfilled the jars with brine and used short cucumbers. I tried them this morning and they seem to taste like deli half-sours - hooray! These need to go in the fridge once their fermentation is over, so I only made two jars. I made them using cucumbers already cut up into spears, which is supposed to help them pickle faster and also helped me get rid of portions of some questionable cukes without throwing away the parts that looked good.

And last but not least, sliced sweet yellow pickle chips. This is not normally my favorite kind of pickle, thus it did not occur to me to make it myself. It did not occur to me how much more I would like it if I made it myself, either! I used a recipe from the chapter on condiments in my new favorite cookbook Charcuterie, and my conclusion is that Ruhlman knows his meats... and his pickles too. These are going on many more of my sandwiches this summer! They also have to stay in the fridge, but it's worth the real estate - I have 3 more pint jars in there right now. Also - an awesome thing to bring to a potluck BBQ, since they go so well on many of the things that will be coming off the grill!