When you’re in a pickle, just make your own
If you were to ask me what I prepare for our family meals during the hot summer months, I would reply, “whatever doesn’t have to be cooked.”
I do love to cook, but I hate standing at my stove preparing a hot meal on an equally hot day. For this summer column I began to think about pickles. Pickles are the perfect accompaniment to a burger or grilled chicken on a hot summer day, next to the pool or at a family picnic. I really wasn’t a pickle fan until last year when my daughter made her own pickles during a kid’s summer farming workshop. These pickles were not too sour and they had just the right amount of crunch. I learned from my five-year old that making a jar of pickles for yourself is not really that difficult.
Store-bought pickles are loaded with vinegar so that they pack that sour punch, but you don’t actually need to add it to your own recipe. Natural fermentation creates that sour taste you crave. If you use a brine solution (water plus salt), in your pickling process, you will create fermentation.
Fermentation is one of the new buzz words in the food circles these days and rightfully so. Fermented foods produce lactic acid bacteria, which in turn produces vitamins, aids in digestion and creates natural antibodies. It is a great way to introduce this into your diet as opposed to a pill form of a probiotic because it occurs naturally. And it is really easy to achieve.
∎ Wash and sterilize (boil in water) a 16–ounce glass jar
∎ Gently wash 4-6 cucumbers, remove the ends and cut into your desired shape. Choose firm cucumbers that are 4-8 inches long, or choose gherkins that are ready to pickle as-is.
∎ Place 2-4 springs of dill, 2 cloves of garlic and 1 teaspoon of peppercorns into the bottom of the jar. Feel free to experiment with other herbs and spices too.
∎ Place the cucumbers into the jar until it is full but without packing them in too tightly.
∎ Add another 2-4 springs of dill on the top.
∎ Fill the jar with the brine (1 ½ cups of filtered water with 2 tablespoons of sea or kosher salt), covering all of the cucumbers.
The next step
Place the lid on top but don’t seal it completely. While the fermentation process takes place, it creates a gas which can cause pressure on the lid and potentially explode the jar.
After a few days you should see some bubbling near the top and the water will become cloudy. It may take up to 10 days to actually finish the fermentation process. You can taste-test the pickles at anytime during this period to figure out if you like the combination and the intensity of the flavors. Once you like what you have tried, seal the lid and place the jar in the refrigerator. They will only keep about a week after that but I am sure that you will not be able to resist them and they will be finished before you know it.
Kim Graham lives in Dublin with her husband, Jim, and their two children. She writes the Starting from Scratch column that appears on the Food pages on the third Tuesday of every month, and she writes the Farmer on the Street column.