In search of the perfect kosher dill

These cukes were born for pickling

Exciting times in the garden this week. Last Tuesday I picked four perfect ‘Parisian Pickling’ Cucumbers from my thriving potted cucumber plant. It was an exciting moment for me. Sure, all harvests are good times in my book, but the cucumbers are special. See, I grew these cucumbers with a purpose. These cukes are destined for the pickling jar.

First cucumber sighting

If you know me at all then you know I love pickles, and I’ve been in search of the perfect kosher dill ever since I can remember. It all started with Claussen pickles – my friends in America, you know them well as the pickle you can only buy in the refrigerator section. Claussen pickles are a great pickle, but they’re also owned by Kraft, which sadly makes them less great.

But I’ve been hard pressed to find a better pickle in the supermarket. And here in the UK, the situation is even worse. All of the pickles I’ve purchased are either too sweet or too mushy. Instead, I usually go for baby gherkin, which are nice, but it’s just not the same as biting into a big, crispy kosher dill.

That Pickle Guy Pickles

The best pickles I’ve had recently were from That Pickle Guy based in Chicago. His kosher original fresh packed pickles are to die for. I discovered them at the Downers Grove Farmer’s Market and while they’re not exactly cheap ($7.49 for a bucket of about 10-12 pickles), they are delicious. You can’t put a price on the perfect kosher dill.

So I decided to take the pickles into my own hands and grow my own cucumbers for pickling. I picked the ‘Parisian Pickling’ Cucumbers because The Real Seed Catalogue just made them sound so appealing.

A proper pickling gherkin-type cucumber with a long history. This was selected in the 1800′s for the cooler northern climate of Paris when cucumbers became fashionable in the city – other ‘southern types’ just couldn’t crop reliably that far north. Despite its age, it is still a very reliable, early and productive cucumber, making lots of fruit with no fuss, even outdoors in the UK.

Sure enough, my cucumber plant thrived outdoors in my little pot on the patio. And I’ve been obsessively watching it grow. Even now, there a bunch of little cucumbers just starting to come to life. My only wish is that I grew more: I have a big appetite for pickles and I can tell this won’t be enough.

Cucumber

Still, I have these four to start with, and they fit perfectly in one of my jars. It’s time to make some pickles. And this is where I get a little sad. I have never made pickles before and I doubt that my first attempt will be my best. Still, I must start somewhere, but where?

As far as I can tell, the basic process works like this:

  1. Wash the cucumbers and soak them in cold water overnight.
  2. Sterilize some jars.
  3. Boil vinegar, water and salt to make a brine.
  4. Put dill, garlic, spices, and cucumbers in a jar.
  5. Fill the jars with the hot brine.
  6. Put lids on the jars and process them in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.
  7. Store for about 8 week then eat.

Step 6 scares me. I fear that cooking the pickles this way will rob them of their delicious crunch. Comments like this one on an AllRecipes dill pickle recipe scare me: “I finally opened my first jar last night and they were delicious. I was hoping for super crispy pickles, but suspect the hot bath method might have made them a bit soggy?”

Soggy pickles? No thanks. I’ve found a few recipes that skip the hot bath, and I think this is where I’ll start. Both of these sound about right:

Both of these season the brined with garlic, dill and peppercorns, but since I have a hard time sticking exactly to a recipe, I might have to add a little mustard seed and turmeric to mine.

Let the pickle experiments begin.


Have you ever made pickles? Any tricks of the trade for keeping my pickles crispy and perfect? Suggested seasoning? Uses? I’m all ears.

These cukes were born for pickling

7 thoughts on “In search of the perfect kosher dill

  1. Alison

    Alton Brown did pickles on Good Eats recently and he did not can them but brinen them, scooped foam so the bacteria couldn’t thrive, finally refrigerated and ate within a couple weeks, you might look for his recipe online, he bit into one and it sure sounded crunchy. Basically he did a brine in a ceramic pot, submerged the pickles then put a plastic bag with brine on top. This bag kept the pickles submerged and if it broke for some reason it didnt’ put plain water in. Then to skim it he took out the bag and wiped it down, most of the scum stayed on the bag, and skimmed the rest off.
    Good luck with the pickles!

    Reply
  2. Monica

    Lexie – I think that’s the best adjective to describe Claussens ever.
    Alison – Thanks for the Alton Brown tip. I actually have his book so I’ll see if he has the recipe in there, or on his website. Interesting approach with bag… and I had no idea my pickles would be "foaming" at all. An adventure awaits.

    Reply
  3. Zoey

    Perhaps you’ve already started your experiment, but I too suggest skipping the hot water bath for this little batch. I pickled for the first time last summer and our pickles turned out great! Unfortunately I don’t remember where we got the recipe but the spices we used yielded a really lovely, complex flavour beyond the dill.

    When we did our batch of pickles last summer they were the last veggies to can after a huge trip to the farmer’s market and they got pretty mushy. We picked them over and sliced off the gross parts, washed ‘em, and proceeded with a recipe similar to the one I’m linking below. We didn’t soak them in water overnight; we did process them in boiling water and they still had a good crunch to them!

    But like I said, for such a small batch, you probably don’t need to bother with processing if you’re storing them in the fridge. I made a small batch of brine to pickle a little bag of peppers last week and they’re crunchy (a bit too hot to comment on an flavour, though I didn’t add much) and all I did was: chop the peppers, put them in a jar, pour brine (cider vinegar, canning salt, sugar) over top, screw top on jar. I let them sit a day before using them. So I guess it depends how closely you’re following a recipe, but you may not need to let them sit that full 8 weeks. Who knows, it could be worth the wait. Best of luck!

    Here’s one recipe: http://www.foodinjars.com/2009/08/11/garlic-dill-pickles/

    Reply
  4. Monica

    Zoey, thank your for all of your suggestions. I DID skip the hot water bath but didn’t expand my spices beyond dill and garlic. Otherwise I pretty much followed your suggestion. Next time chili is DEFINITELY going in the jar. What type of peppers do you use? I’ll probably let them sit 8 weeks – just to get the full effect (if I can wait that long). Thanks for that link – I’m now eyeing those zucchini pickles she linked to. And what a great blog!

    Reply
  5. Carolyn

    Your pot growing on the patio and gorgeous pictures are very inspiring! The very best pickles I ever made were from a recipe I found online. I simply Googled “Best Dill Pickle Recipe Ever,” and tweaked the recipe a bit. I read once that adding grape leaves to the jars kept pickles very crisp and let me tell you, it worked like a charm! Also, I should add that using the very freshest cucumbers is key. Grow lots of plants so you have enough to do a batch right away instead of picking a few everyday and then canning at the end of the week. Also, pick cucumbers (or any fruit/vegetable) in the early morning hours as this is when they have the highest sugar content & water content. The ice bath works great to keep them extra crisp. Then, I added double garlic and dill than the recipe suggested, because I do that with every recipe with spectacular results. Lastly, my favorite varieties of cucumbers for pickling: National Pickling Cucumber & Green Finger Persian Cucumber. I also like the Parisian Pickling which is a Gherkin, probably what you have already. I am a seed grower/urban farmer in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. I do sell the seeds for the above mentioned cucumber varieties if you are ever so inclined to give them a try. I definitely never skip the grape leave step. A few years ago I ever pickling gourmet(tiny) sized summer squashes whole utilizing the same dill pickle recipe and they turned out fantastic! They actually tasted exactly like dill pickles but crunchier as you might expect coming from a baby squash. They look gorgeous in the jars as whole specimens which makes them great gift ideas for the Holidays also. The idea came from a Gardener’s Cookbook I have but I bet you could find similar recipes online if you were so inclined. I like the website: CanningUSA.com. They have great recipe ideas and thorough step by step instructions. Many blessings-
    Carolyn Kenyon

    Reply

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