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.
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.
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.
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:
- Wash the cucumbers and soak them in cold water overnight.
- Sterilize some jars.
- Boil vinegar, water and salt to make a brine.
- Put dill, garlic, spices, and cucumbers in a jar.
- Fill the jars with the hot brine.
- Put lids on the jars and process them in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.
- 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.