Sunday, June 10, 2012
My husband loves pickles.
I mean he LOVES pickles.
When I was pregnant with Leila, I went to the store once and ended up buying 3 jars of pickles... I couldn't decide which kind I was craving so I bought 3 different kinds...
I thought I was bad.
My husband goes through about 3 jars of pickles A WEEK!
So naturally when we were at the Farmer's Market a few weeks ago, he bought a bunch of nice big cucumbers and asked me to make him homemade pickles. Of course I said yes.
And then I went to work to find a recipe that I could make without having to go through the process of canning.
I finally found a recipe I liked on McCormick's website. I tweaked it a bit to fit our tastes and what we had on hand, but ultimately it turned out beautifully and I couldn't be happier with the end result: a crunchy, crisp, delicious pickle with just the right amount of sour and sweet!
I made four variations that I will tell you how to make: dill spears, zesty dill spears, bread and butter chips, and garlic dill "chunks".
First you need to select your cucumbers. I ended up with about 5 or 6 nice sized pickling cucumbers. The color was a medium green - not the super dark green of the standard store bought cucumbers, but not the creamy pale color of some market cucumbers. I went for something in between. I also made sure to select cucumbers free of any blemishes or bruises. You want nice, fresh, crisp cucumbers. The fresher the cucumber, the crisper the pickle.
And no one likes a mushy pickle.
To prepare the cucumbers for pickling, slice the ends off of each cuke. You dont need to take much off, just enough to remove the stem.
Then slice the cucumber however you prefer. I ended up with 4 jars - 1 quart size jar of spears, 1 pint size jar of spears, 1 pint size jar of bread and butter chips, and a half pint size jar of the leftover chunks from what I cut off of the spears to make them fit in the pint size jar.
For the spears I simply cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 3 pieces. You would naturally think it would be two or four, but after much deliberation I determined 3 to be the perfect size for the spears.
For the bread and butter chips I used my Pampered Chef Mandoline Slicer. I used the blade that makes krinkle cuts... I LOVE that blade... It is perfect for making Microwave Potato Chips, cutting veggies in an exciting shape for kids, or for preparing your pickles like I did. It makes them the absolute perfect thickness.
After you have prepared your cucumbers, toss them in a bowl and sprinkle with turmeric. I used about a teaspoon per bowl. Then cover the cucumbers with the hottest tap water you can get. You can boil the water and do it that way, but I like immediate gratification, so I went with super hot tap water.
Let them sit until the water has completely cooled off, and then let it sit longer... about 2 hours. Drain them completely then rinse with cold water and drain again. Repeat this rinsing and draining a couple of times.
In the bottom of 3-4 sterilized pint size mason jars, sprinkle mustard seed, dill weed, and other herbs to your preference. I ended up with the following:
Dill Spears: 1 tbsp dried dill weed, 1 tbsp mustard seed (whole)
Zesty Dill spears: 1 tbsp dried dill weed, 1-2 tsp mustard seed (whole), 1-2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Garlic Dill chunks: 1 tbsp dried dill weed, 1-2 tsp mustard seed (whole), 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1 teaspoon McCormick's pickling spice
Bread and Butter Chips: 1 tsp McCormick's pickling spice, 1 tbsp mustard seed (whole)
Then pack your prepared cucumbers into the jars. I jammed mine in there nice and tight. It was like a puzzle trying to get all the spears to fit in there! For the pint size jar of spears, I used one as a guide for how tall they could be and cut the rest accordingly. Then I tossed the little chunks into a half pint jar and made those into my Garlic Dill chunks.
The bread and butter chips have a pickling solution that contains more sugar. This is what gives it the sweet and sour bite. The dill pickles have less sugar so the vinegar shines through and gives it a sharper bite. I started out with the same solution for all four jars, the dill solution, then I poured the mixture into the three dill jars and returned the remainder to the stove with some more sugar. You can do it that way, or you can use two different pots.
FOR DILL: Bring 3 1/2 cups white vinegar to a boil. Stir in 2 tablespoons white sugar and 2 tablespoons salt. I used iodized sea salt (I think I am in love!).
Once the sugar and salt has completely dissolved, pour into the jars, leaving about 1/4 inch head space. This is what the "official instructions said, but to be honest, I just poured mine up to the bottom of where the threads start. It worked out perfectly between all four jars. You can always go back and distribute leftovers at the end.
FOR BREAD AND BUTTER: Place 2 cups each of white vinegar and white sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes, stirring to ensure that all the sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and pour into the prepared jars.
Let the pickles stand in their jars, uncovered, until cooled to room temperature. Then screw on the lids and refrigerate. You will have to check them every couple of days and shake them to distribute all the yummy seasonings. I tried one of my pickles right away and it was already "pickle-y" and delicious!