To some folks, the idea of making pickles is daunting. Questions abound. How does a brine work? Do I have to ferment them for a long time? How do I keep them crisp? How do I keep them from going bad in the pantry? What kind of vinegar should I use? I was talking to my 93 year old dad about how his mother made pickles. He described a crock that sat on the kitchen counter for months and the time-intensive process she went through to ferment her own pickles the old fashioned way. Not all pickles are created equally - there are hundreds of types of pickles and they are enjoyed by many cultures around the world. Pickling was a main form of food preservation long before the invention of modern refrigeration. Sauerkraut is really just pickled and fermented cabbage. In Japanese cuisine, pickled ginger is quite popular. On the Indian table, you will find mango pickle. There are pickled eggs, pickled beets, pickled pigs feet and even pickled herring. You can pickle just about anything.
|Picklesburgh features a giant inflatable pickle.|
After making a few batches of pickles, you get a feel for the proportions of the ingredients. I started by following a recipe for the brine, but I had a lot of cucumbers to deal with and I didn't want to have any left over. You need enough brine so that each jar is filled to the rim, so you might need to adjust the amount of vinegar and sugar to ensure that you have enough brine. Too much is better than not enough.
BREAD & BUTTER PICKLES
15 cups of sliced cucumbers (12-15 medium large cukes)
1 thinly sliced yellow onion
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tbsp pickling spice (optional)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
The pickles should be packed tightly into jars and the best way to do this is with tongs. Lift the pickles out of the hot brine and put them in the jars making sure to press them down so you can get as many in there as possible. Once your jars are filled with pickles, ladle the brine over them so it covers the cucumbers. You can keep the jars in the fridge or you can seal them using the traditional canning method and they'll be good in your pantry for about six months, although mine don't make it that long. I made seven jars of bread & butter pickles and for my second batch, I made sour pickles with dill seed from my garden. I'm hoping they'll make it to Thanksgiving, but they are in high demand. Pickling is really not difficult and once you learn the technique, you can pickle whatever you have on hand. Don't be shy, give it a try!