I made picklesI was once an exchange student at an American college, a desolate, suburban college in the middle of nowhere in California. The university was a bit disappointing, but the sandwiches were a real highlight. They served them with corn chips and a long wedge of dill pickle, and this is where my love of all things pickled began.
Oh, pickles, I love every form of you. I love bread and butter pickles, gherkins, cornichons, pickled capers, pickled carrots, pickled coleslaws, pickled everything.
Given my love of the pickle, it was only a matter of time before I tried my hand at the pinnacle of the pickle, the dill pickle. I came across some tiny cucumbers at the market and decided now is the time, so I grabbed them and a bunch of dill and resolved to try it at home.
I braced myself for an ordeal of boiling vinegar and pungent spices, but this recipe, via David Lebovitz, is very, very easy. You just make up a hot brine, cram your cucumbers in jars, finish with dill, garlic and spices, then pour the brine over and allow to ferment. After three days that signature pickle acid has magically appeared. And let me tell you, there's nothing like biting into a homemade pickle.
One caveat: I eyeballed the quantities when it came to jars. I'd advise you to use the tallest jar you can find and cram it as full as you can with baby cucumbers. You might get one jar, you might get several, depending on how many you can find. You will have leftover brine and spice. The spice can be kept. The brine can't.
Via David Lebovitz
A quantity of baby cucumbers, stems cut off with a paring knife
3 tbsp coarse salt
2 litres water
A bunch of dill
2-3 garlic cloves per jar, unpeeled, lightly crushed with the flat of a knife blade
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp mustard seeds
12 bay leaves, crumbled
Heat the peppercorns, coriander seeds and mustard seeds in a dry pan until fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop. Pour into a mortar and pestle and bash a couple of times just to crush a few (you can skip this if you don't have a mortar and pestle). Put the seeds into a jar with the crushed bay leaves and set aside.
Scrub your cucumbers really, really well and set aside. Wash the dill well, too. Rinse your jar(s) of choice with hot water. Put 1/3 of a bunch of dill in each jar you're using, followed by garlic cloves and 1 tsp spices. Pack the cucumbers in tightly.
Combine salt and 1 litre of water in a pan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve. Add the remaining litre of water. Ladle hot brine into jars until cucumbers are COMPLETELY covered - if their little heads poke out they'll go mouldy.
Put the lids back on loosely - don't screw them on - and put the jars in a cool, dark place. Allow to ferment for at least 3 days, or until pickles are sour enough. Once properly ripened, keep them in the fridge.
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