Monday, July 16, 2007

With patience comes pickles

Working for a weekly magazine, my Friday nights at the office are very late. We don’t put the issue to bed until 9:30, so I often don’t get to leave before 10. I’m usually too tired at this point to do anything but sprawl on the couch—forget about mustering the energy to eat.

This past Friday was no different, and while the couch beckoned my empty stomach more loudly insisted that I fill it with food before I lounge. As I stood staring into my fridge, I was dismayed that I had no leftovers, which left me with only a few easy choices: scrambled eggs, peanut butter on a spoon, or salad. None of these options called out to me, but ordering take-out didn’t appeal either. I recently read Anthony Bourdain’s thoughts about bad food, and to paraphrase—bad food is anything made without love. Perhaps it’s the influence of these words, but it’s true, you can really taste that lack in so many restaurant’s offerings. Not all restaurants, of course, but many of my late-night delivery options are not, shall we say, the pinnacle of carefully prepared, creative cuisine. I just couldn’t bear to suffer through an over-priced, mediocre meal.

As I was nibbling on a curly red lettuce leaf, a Mason jar on the lower shelf in the fridge caught my eye. How could I forget? There sat my first attempt at making refrigerator dill pickles and after six days of shaking the jar and keeping them cool, they were finally ready.

Everyone in my family pickles and cans like they’re stocking a storm shelter. Pantry shelves are lined with colorful, comforting Mason jars stuffed with pickled vegetables and fruit preserves—an arresting array of homespun edible art. For some reason, however, I’ve never participated in the family’s canning activities, and so the process struck me as both inaccessible and mysterious. Plus, I always reckoned you needed a host of specialized equipment to do the act, so I just never bothered.

Canning jam, perhaps, does take a more technical approach, but I recently discovered that making pickles could be as simple as just brining your vegetables in the fridge for a week. And after picking up a few gorgeous Kirby cucumbers at the farmer’s market, I decided that it was high time I try to make my own dill pickles.

I’ve been attempting to grow an indoor herb garden, and several of my plants have responded heroically to the not-so-ideal horticultural conditions of my apartment: the French tarragon is lacing its way across the window sill; the chocolate mint has exploded with long, leafy stems; the purple sage surprises me daily with new, velvety growth; and the Greek basil has puffed into several large globes of fragrant, delicate leaves. But my dill plant languished and I realized it was time to say good-bye. Fortunately, with herbs you can eat your failures, so it wasn’t a total loss.

I packed what was left of my dill plant into a jar, threw in some garlic, coriander seeds and peppercorns, added the sliced cucumbers and poured in my brine. Then I placed the jar in the refrigerator and waited.

I’m usually not a patient person, but after a week of resisting the urge to open the jar and see how the pickles were faring, it was very rewarding to finally be able to taste the labor of my efforts. But first, I took a sip of the pickle juice. Every since my Aunts Jill and Julie (who are just a few years older than I, and growing up were more like big sisters than dear old aunties) dared me to drink pickle juice when I was five, I’ve been hooked; the salty, vinegary tang of pickle juice is one of my favorite potables. Plus it’s always a strong indicator if the pickles themselves will have a good flavor. The juice from my homemade pickle jar did not disappoint. I then took out a cucumber slice and slowly took a bite. It was crisp, tart and juicy, evenly flavored with garlic, pepper and dill. These were as good if not better than any of the excellent pickles you can find here in New York City, but what made me relish them even more was that I had made them myself!

So on that warm Friday evening, when my energy was low and my tummy was rumbling, I was thrilled to eat straight from the jar my own cool and spicy homemade dill pickles, which were all the more delicious because they had been prepared with love. So now that I’ve cracked the pickle code, it’s time to figure out how to make jam. I do believe that homemade preserves would make my peanut butter very, very happy!

Refrigerator dill pickles
Ingredients:
6 Kirby cucumbers, cleaned, stemmed and halved, lengthwise
1/2 cup of white vinegar
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of fresh dill

Method:
Place salt, peppercorns, coriander seeds, garlic and dill in a sterilized 1-quart Mason jar.
Layer sliced cucumbers in jar, leaving 1/2 inch at the top.
Pour in vinegar.
Fill jar with water, seal with lid and shake for about a minute.
Refrigerate for six days, shaking daily.

Makes 1-quart jar of dill pickles. This simple recipe, however, can easily be multiplied.

Here’s some other pickle recipes I can’t wait to try:
Ann packs her Mason jars with some perfectly pink pickled eggs.
I’ve never been a fan of sweet pickles because they’re too, well, sweet. But Sean makes these sweet pickles sound downright sinful.
I love radishes and can’t even begin to imagine how delicious Amy’s pickled radishes must taste.
Lisa, the Kitchen Chick, pairs her pickled green beans with pork!

Related Stories Widget by LinkWithin

60 comments:

nika said...

I gotta try your pickles!

Making your own jam is worth every second! Its also quite easy. No one tells you that storebought jam is a different animal than homemade .. they are on different worlds!

This is a link to my experience with it. http://nikas-culinaria.com/2006/07/28/strawberry-jam-delight/

Yvo said...

Mmm, I only started pickling myself about a year ago, and it's awesome. They're nearly always just perfect because it's your own mix and you know what you like. Glad you're on board! I don't think I'll try jams though; don't you have to boil jars and the like? Too fussy for me ;)

PS When I was a kid, I used to sneak sips of the pickle juice from my mom buying pickles at the deli counter. I always thought I was weird/crazy but the more I learn about other foodies in the world via this thing called the internet... well, I'll be damned, I'm not so strange after all :)

Rachel said...

I love refrigerator pickles! I made some similar pickles last year which were awesome!

Lydia said...

Hooray for refrigerator pickles! I've also been making countertop half-sours from an old Victory Garden cookbook recipe, very similar to these.

Erin said...

I'm excited to try this at home. But first, I would love your opinion: if I want to pickle with salt-brine only (no vinegar), should I add more salt, or should 2 tbsp still be sufficient? And if I want to use whole cucumbers, not sliced, how much longer do you think they would need to soak?

Makes me want a dirty martini with pickle juice...

Jerry said...

I failed at marmalade, but I'm sure I can pickle. Farmer's market here I com.

Anonymous said...

My mom makes her own red hot sweet pickles every year - my great-grandma used to make them. You use Red Hot candies to sweeten them (they dissolve in the juice), and the cucumbers are cut into small pieces. I don't really care much for sweet pickles - dill pickles are my favorite, even the juice is good - but these are wonderful. I'm sure you can easily find a similar recipe online - I recommend it!

-Channing

Trojan said...

Fantastic blog...I'll have some Rudy's Bar B Q for you:)

I'm in Austin..

Homesick Texan said...

Nika--Thanks for the link--your strawberry jam is gorgeous, plus you make it sound so simple. I can't wait to try it!

Yvo--Hey! Another pickle juice fan. Either we're both strange or both completely normal!

Rachel--Thanks for the sharing the link--they are awesome and so easy!

Lydia--Your Victory Garden cookbook sounds fascinating--is it from the 40s?

Erin--I'm certainly no pickling expert, but from what I've gathered you wouldn't add more salt, you would just ferment the pickles for a longer period of time. One recipe I saw called for six weeks. It would be fun to experiment!

Jerry--Yes! Pickling is a snap!

Channing--What a clever idea! Do the pickles turn red?

Trojan--Why thank you! Eat some brisket for me!

Anonymous said...

"These was as good..."

Homesick Texan said...

Anon--Doh! Thanks for pointing that out!

Vanessa said...

>>>"so I often don’t get to leave before 10"
You're making me tired just thinking about it! :)

What Anthony Bourdain were you reading - sounds great!

The Cooking Ninja said...

Interesting post. Thanks for sharing. We both love pickles.

AnnieKNodes said...

OK, between your gorgeous Kirbys and Ann's puckery carrots, you guys are making a pregger lady drool on her keyboard over here! I must, must try these. And the link to pickled green beans with pork? Ho boy!

iamchanelle said...

i LOVE LOVE LOVE dill pickles - AND their juice. when i was a kid, my grandparents would actually save their jars of pickle juice for me once they finished the pickles, i loved it that much. glad to know there are more of us out there. :0)
i have always wanted to try making my own pickles and have been scared off by the whole canning process. i will totally try your recipe. thanks!

and thanks for stopping by my site - so nice to "meet" you!!!

christine (myplateoryours) said...

You have got me craving pickles now -- did you eat the whole jar?

christine (myplateoryours) said...

By the way, did you see that piece in the NYT on Kool-aid pickles? May 9. Hmmm.

Garrett said...

Sounds yummy! I'll have to give this a try! I loved the Japanese pickles i made a few years back.

.btw, sent you an interesting e-mail ;)

Mercedes said...

I adore pickles but I've only ever made them once, I guess I didn't get the pickling gene. In the market near my apt. in Damascus there's this fabulous pickle guy, my favorites are turnips pickled in beet juice and saffron-pickled cauliflower. But maybe I should start with a basic dill pickle...

texpat said...

Great post, HST.

My sister-in-law in Austin County Texas is the undisputed queen of pickle makers. She puts up dill pickles with chili pequin peppers in the jar. Lord have mercy, are they good ! She sent me two jars two years ago (to Bergen County)and I made them last almost this long.

Kitchen Chick said...

Hello and thanks for the link back.

I admit, not growing up with a canning family, that canning my own food seems, as you put it so well, "inaccessible and mysterious." All then there are all those dire warnings about botulism... But "refrigerator pickling" turned out to be so easy. I'm looking forward to making more Asian pickled vegetables.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

I am such a fan of dill pickles...this recipe looks great!

Anonymous said...

The red hot pickles do turn red!

-Channing

Homesick Texan said...

Vanessa--Honestly, I can't remember! It wasn't one of his books, I believe it was either an article he wrote or an interview with him.

Cooking Ninja-You're welcome--I love pickles, too!

Anne--Ann and I just are looking out for our pregnant friend--next time we'll write about ice cream!

IamChanelle--Yea, another pickle juice fan! Your grandparents sound wonderful! And trust me, if I can do it, anyone can do it--these are a cinch!

Christine--Yes, I read that article, I'm intrigued but not a big fan of Kool-Aid. Check out this link--Rob over at Hungry in Hogtown makes a batch:

http://www.hungryinhogtown.com/hungry_in_hogtown/2007/07/dillicious-kool.html

And no, I didn't eat the whole jar, but almost!

Garrett--I'll have to go back and find your post on the Japanese pickles. How are they different?

Mercedes--Oh my! Saffron-pickled cauliflower sounds exquisite--I have a good supply of the lovely red spice from a few friends' trips to the Middle East--I'll have to try that!

Texpat--You're very disciplined making them last this long--I'd probably polish off all of them in a week! I love pequin peppers, such a piquant spice!

Kitchen Chick--You're welcome! I was always concerned about botulism as well, but doing it in the fridge is pretty effortless.

Caffeinated Cowgirl--Thanks! Enjoy!

Channing--How cool! I'll have to throw some in next time I make some pickles!

Luisa said...

Yum yum yum. I love that feeling of total contentedness when you figure something like this out. And the pickles taste good to boot! That is sucess, indeed.

Tommy said...

This is a fact. US made pickles taste so much better than CDN made pickles. Popular CDN brands like Bicks,(or their private labels) taste so inferior to a brand such as Vlasic, and upon inspection, the Vlasic is always denoted as Product of USA. It's not the cucumber, it may be the process or quality of vinegar used, but the CDN producers are not making a good product. As you rule in hotdogs, I think you also put out a superior dill pickle.

And some of those real NY kosher dills that people are bound to say are the best, are amongst the saltiest food items known to man. I guess they use salt to counteract any botulism.

Thought you might like to know.

Anonymous said...

As a Texan in exile, you now need to work on pickled okra w/ hot peppers.

You get two in one good pickles and good okra.

ann said...

Man, those look GOOD Lisa! I mean, like, when can I swing by and have a pickle martini made with some of the brine while we sit on the stoop and chow down on the kirbys good?

Scribbit said...

You always have such great pictures, I'm envious.

Homesick Texan said...

Luisa--I know, isn't it terrific when experiments go well? Such a feeling of success and contentedness indeed!

Tommy--That's a shame Canadian pickles don't taste as good as American ones. But if you make them yourself you shouldn't have to worry about messing with the store brands. Interesting thought about the salt--I reckon you're right.

Anon--Yes! I've never been a fan of pickled okra, but so many people are telling me I need to revisit them since I'm now a more (ahem) sophisticated grown-up. And okra is in such abundance now I'm game to give pickling them a try!

Ann--You betcha! Come on over anytime! And bring some of your firecrackers along.

Scribbit--Aw shucks...thanks!

Mom said...

Welcome to pickling!
Grandma and I put up 17 pints when I was there 4th of July; they have to sit for at least 6 weeks before they are ready. Your method sounds great. Jelly/jam/preserves are very, very easy. You'll enjoy it, too.
love, mom

Sweet Thang said...

I confess, I drink the juice. Heck, I CRAVE the juice.. then eat the pickles!

Love the recipe; I will have to give it a try!

And I love your blog! Keep up the good work

Jerry said...

Tagged you for seven randoms facts!

Pille said...

Ohh, those pickles look wonderful! Pickling & preserving is huge in Estonia, and every family has their own pickled cucumber recipe. At the moment, however, it's time for salted cucumbers - my favourites are 1-day old salted cucumbers, which has such a wonderfully fresh flavour..

Homesick Texan said...

Mom--You'll have to teach me how to make jam next time I'm home!

Sweet Thang--Yep, the juice is the best part!

Jerry--Thanks! I'm a bit behind on my memes but will try to address them all soon!

Pille--One-day salted cucumbers? I'm intrigued! I bet they're very crisp.

Lisa said...

Oh! I've been wanting to try making pickles, and yours looks like the best recipe! Must pick up some Kirbys today.

Linda said...

brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! i can't wait to try this. my love and i are completely enamored with pickles and have yet to produce our own! thank you for the recipe!

Homesick Houstonian said...

Amy's radishes are more in the style I pickle. I'm impatient so I just put vinegar and sugar straight up. You can eat your pickles in 5 minutes to 5 hours depending on the thickness. Its really amazing to pickle onion slices in lime juice. A girl in culinary school did this to serve with barbecue and the chef kept coming back saying "do you have anymore of the onions? they want more onions".

I'll have to try pickling the right way as your pickle description left me drooling. I make escabeche(the carrot version) with apple cider vinegar and I noticed the longer it sits in the fridge the more it tastes like la jaliscience. So maybe I should let it sit six days. hmm....

Lesley said...

Thanks for recipe. I jarred some cucumbers yesterday and am excited to eat the results!

Homesick Texan said...

Lisa--Don't know if it's the best, but they sure are easy!

Linda--You're welcome! May you and your love enjoy!

Homesick Houstonian--I'll have to try the onions pickled in lime juice--sounds like the perfect complement to bbq or anything beef.

Lesley--You're welcome--I hope they turn out delicious!

TexanNewYorker said...

I'm wondering: could I pickle watermelon rind this way? I happen to have an entire watermelon in the fridge at the moment . . .

Jessica said...

What great writing! I've made Chinese pickled garlic (what else are you going to do with five heads?) and sweet pickled watermelon rind.

Homesick Texan said...

TexanNewYorker--Check out Jessica's recipe link below--she does what I was going to recommend--use sugar and cinnamon sticks with the brine and you'll have wonderful pickled watermeon rind.

Jessica--Thanks for the link! And oh my, pickled Chinese garlic sounds decadent!

Julie said...

I have never even thought of making my own pickles but you make it sound so easy. And good!

ALL THE BEST said...

thank you for this post! how could i have forgotten my grandmother's refrigerator dill pickles!! i would get jars of them!! i must make these. the only difficulty will be uk cucumbers.

TaraTot said...

I am so happy to have found this, I have an abundance of cucumbers right now and love pickles.

I've not got my own batch brewing in the fridge!

kimberly said...

I grew up on my Texan grandmother's bread and butter pickles. I never got her recipe, or learned to can from her, but one day I decided that I had to make pickles. In a couple of weeks, our local cucumbers will be ready. I can't wait.

Oh, and your mom is right. Making jam is easy, and the results are well worth the effort.

Jessica said...

I brined these pickles yesterday, and I already stole a taste. Wow, these are some of the best pickles I've ever had. I didn't even have dill and coriander seeds, so I substituted oregano and cumin.

kansasrose said...

HOLY COW! Where have you been all my life??? This picklin' post and recipe is biblical. As a Germanic ancestored midwesterner I was raised on the German Popsicle. A bushel of kirbys are waiting...Thanks again! :)

kansasrose said...

Hey..I make killer Catawba wine grape jelly. Got 2 acres of em! The jelly has a kick cause I let the juice ferment just a wee bit. Well...actually quite a bit. It's the prettiest pink color and makes breakfast toast and muffins an experience. Don't you LOVE to can and put up?

Homesick Texan said...

Julie--Trust me, if I can do it anyone can do it! They're super easy.

Allthebest--You're welcome! What's different about cucumbers in the UK?

TaraTot--Yep, they're a terrific way to deal with an abundance of cucumbers.

Kimberly--Yours look gorgeous! I'll have to add some peppers next time.

Jessica--Yes! And what makes them taste even better is just how simple they are. And I love that you used cumin and oregano.

KansasRose--Actually, I haven't made jelly yet, but I've been assured that it's quite simple so I aim to tackle it soon. I have a mess of empty Mason jars just begging to be filled!

LIBERTY POST EDITOR said...

What an amazing post about pickles! Funny, I just posted about this last week, but your post in so fun...I'm going to write about your blog now!

Lyra said...

I loved reading this entry, and I will definitely be doing some pickling this fall, but probably with other veggies like broccoli and cauliflower since cucumbers are almost over for the season.

I love pickles, in fact, my first solid food was a kosher dill pickle that my dad gave me as a joke. The joke was on him when I ate the whole thing. I drink the pickle juice once the jar is empty too:) So there are a lot of pickle juice drinkers out there!

Burk said...

These are terrific, and even better with a few mustard seeds and pepper flakes added.

Also, it helps to have a pickle shaking song: http://burkcooks.blogspot.com/2008/08/shake-your-pickles.html

Claire D said...

YUM YUM YUM!! I have been making pickles in a much more long winded way (brining, soaking, etc) - but I tried making these last week and they are the best ever! And soooo easy to make! I like to throw in some mustard seeds and green chillies for a bit more of a kick. Thank you for sharing and I LOVE your blog

Stephanie said...

GLORIOUS! These are the best pickles ever. I find myself craving them at night straight from the jar. Life changing method!! So easy to make just one jar at a time, although you might kick yourself later for not making more. LOVE your blog..I've made many or your tasties and adored them (hello? CARNITAS!!), but, just had to rave about these!

Anna said...

So glad to find some fridge pickle encouragement! I'm attempting my own and I loved this post.

Jason B. said...

These are great, just made my Third batch last night! I absolutely love them! I did have to add some more water after I ate the first two pickle halves. I cut the salt to 1 1/2 Tbsps and will see if that helps. Love this blog!!!

Betty said...

Made your pickles last week. The flavor and the crispness were OUTSTANDING!! The salt was a bit much. I'm making another batch this week and can hardly wait for them to "cure" out! We have been canning and pickling for a long time and this is the best dill recipe we've found. Thanks! btw, we're back in NM after more than 30 years away. It's wonderful to get the flavors we love just by going to the store! Keep on posting! (Hatch chilis are being roasted as I type.... UMMMMM!!)

Suzyn Siebert said...

Excellent recipe! I stumbled apon your blog last week when I had 6 cucumbers from our local coop that were about to go bad. I have never pickled anything and I have a house full of picky eaters. I did my daily shaking and today was tasting day. I'm excited to say that this recipe is picky eater approved!! Thank you this is a new family favorite. My husband said now we just need bigger jars!

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated to avoid spam. And if you don't have a blog, please leave your name as it makes it friendlier that way!