Notice: I am NOT a medical professional and have no desire to be. I am writing from personal experience only. To avoid spoilage, contamination or illness, follow proper safety guidelines when canning.
When you live in New England, Maine especially, you have to really take advantage of the summer months. Squeezing six months of activities like visits to/from family, trips to the beach or lake house, or quality time in a garden, into ten short weeks can be daunting. Everything seems to happen at once. Including vegetables ripening.
Remembering that I do live in Maine and at any point after say, August 30th, I could be paid a visit by that all to unwelcome guest, Jack Frost, ! find I have to speed harvest. Baskets of tomatoes, beans, summer squash and cucumbers coming out my ears! There is no way that my family could consume this much produce before rotting! All my hard work down the drain. That is until I learned how to make pickles.
I now pickle everything, including traditional half-sour pickles that require no canning method. Dilly beans- both spicy and not. Marinara Sauce. Apple Sauce. You name it, I can pickle or can it. One of my favorites is taking a sweet pickle recipe and substituting summer squash for the cucumber! So good!
So stop being a sour puss and start pickling! You will thank me later. I promise.
Cold Fresh Pack Half-Sour Pickles
Link to original recipe from a great blog called Tommy J's Kitchen
These are not yet pickle perfection; I’m still ‘in search of,’ on that journey. But they are certainly Pretty Good Pickles . . . Using pickling cucumbers or even pole beans (with the addition of dill) for Dilly Beans!
Here’s what you’ll need:
1/3 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1/3 tsp. brown mustard seeds
1 or 2 whole allspice
1/3 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 tsp. black pepper corns
¼ tsp. dill seeds
1 – 2 Tbsp. dill weed
2 or 3 pieces broken dried bay leaf
4 – 6 cloves garlic
¼ cup pickling salt
4 cups water
8 or 9 pickling cukes
Here’s how you do it.
First, buy some pickling salt. Look for salt that specifically says “pickling salt.” That’s because pickling salt is simply plain, pure salt. No iodine, no additives to ‘ensure free flow,’ no nothing. Just salt, sodium chloride, NaCl, that’s all. Even Kosher salt, these days, usually has additives (presumably Kosher additives, but still . . .) For a pickling brine of any kind, just plain salt is best.
Second, a word about the Pickle Police. Disclaimer: This is a cold, fresh-pack approach to pickles. No heat, no boiling, no sterilization in the autoclave, or canning in a boiling water bath, no antisepsis of any kind other than normal kitchen cleanliness. In other words, against all the rules promulgated by the FDA and every other official food agency. So be scrupulous in your cleaning. I typically eat them right away -and store them in the refrigerator-so there's less of a chance of food borne illness. If you are immunocompromised in anyway...stick to vlasic!
The process itself is pretty simple. Dissolve the salt in the water. Grind up all the dry ingredients except the dill weed and the bay leaf in a mortar. Chop the garlic. Wash the cukes and pack them in the jar. Dump in all the dry stuff, all the garlic, and pour in the salt water to cover everything. Wait. Chill. Pickles.
Too quick? Ok. One more time . . .
While you’re gathering and measuring and grinding and chopping, let your cukes soak in a sinkful of ice cold water. And be sure to snip off any little stem parts that are still attached. The stems are very bitter and can ruin an otherwise great batch of pickles.
The amount of salt, and the other ingredients, will, of course, depend on the size of your pickle jar. Mine holds about 8 or 9 cucumbers and takes nearly 4 cups of salt water to cover the pickles. So all my measurements are based on my jar. You’ll need to adjust based on your jar. Also, remember that even though I’ve offered specific amounts for the ingredients, I measure them all in the palm of my hand – well, except for the water and the salt . . .
When you grind up the dry ingredients, don’t turn it to dust. You just want to release some of the flavors and let them blend for a minute or two. I usually watch the brown mustard seeds, and as soon as I see them becoming a yellow powder, I’ll stop. The allspice are usually still whole at that point, as are the peppercorns. (In fact, I’ll often just add the peppercorns at the end, without even putting them in the mortar.)
The salt and garlic will be providing most of the noticeable flavor for your pickles, so getting the garlic quantity right is a critical step. Since I didn’t understand that at first, I erred on the side of caution. I urge you to err on the other side. And keep in mind that smaller cloves are often more strongly flavored than large ones. If your garlic cloves are the size of your thumb, use 6 (or 8 or . . .)
When you pack your cukes into your jar, try to leave an inch or two of headroom above the pickles. If the pickles are not completely covered in the brine, they’ll just rot, and you’ll be calling those Pickle Police. So push and shove a little to get them in with some room to spare.
When the pickles are packed, pour in the contents of the mortar, the chopped garlic, the dill weed, the bay leaf, and anything else you decided not to grind earlier. Then fill the jar with the salt water, right up to the top.
Now they get to sit for a few days, somewhere cool and dry (and clean!) Do not tighten the lid while the pickles are sitting. You want the pickles to ferment. Leave them at room temperature for at least 48 hours – I usually wait 72 hours – and then screw that cap on tight and put them in the refrigerator. Oh, and a little dish under the jar is a really good idea. Some of the brine is guaranteed to spill out as the fermentation gets going; catching it on a plate is better than wiping it off the table!
As I said, these are not yet Pickle Perfection, so if, in your experiments, you stumble across the path to perfection (or already know it), please share. Half sour pickle lovers across the globe will thank you for it . . . In the meantime, enjoy these.