Brine Pickling Monthly
The Science of Homemade
by Bill Hettig, Master Brine Pickler
© 2011, Perfect Pickler, Inc.
Dill cucumber pickles are an All-American food. Even though its origin stems from Eastern Europe, we have adopted them as our own. Think of a pickle Stateside and visions of crescent shaped, vinegary cucumbers pop into our heads. Heck, our country was named after a former pickle vendor. Luckily we weren’t named Vespuccians or Amerigoans for that matter.
These dills were so commen they were a fixture in general stores. You tonged out a supply from brine barrels well into the twentieth century. Oddly enough, most of you have never tasted one! Let’s get them back, at least into our fridges. NOTHING beats the real thing...
Wait till you discover how easy they are now to make. We've been triumphant in the test kitchens this summer. Fifteen minutes of prep time and you will be tonging them out of a jar later in the week.
Pickling these original European pickles, though, has proved elusive—left up to a few Old World delicatessens and brine picklers, like us. You will now be able to use any type cucumber—small, large, fat, English, salad, or hydroponic—you’ll have old world taste in a modern and dependable recipe.
First off, let me get you oriented with dill pickle lingo. For our recipe I’m not talking about the hot vinegar and salt brined dill pickle you are most familiar with and find on grocery shelves. These are preserved with heat and sterilization. The original European recipe is made with just salt, water, garlic, dill, and pickling spices. No heat required. They are self-preserved with lactic acid bacteria and refrigeration. Most of us have never really had one. These are the type we make in fresh brine pickling. They are also known as half-sours, as no vinegar is used during fermentation. They are ripping with live-culture and enzymes. And the taste of the brine alone makes grown men (and women, farmers, athletes) weep.
What makes this fresh brine style pickling touchy is the quality of the cucumber. It truly can be said that one rotten cucumber can spoil the batch. And there are other caveats and before you know it, you’re fondly remembering your store bought dills. Many of you buy a Perfect Pickler to make dill pickles. Here’s a fabulous technique I fell upon after several trials.
I found an Old World recipe for cucumber kimchi and it used a technique to draw moisture out of the cucumber before pickling. When I tried it, the cucumbers stayed firmer after fermentation. It actually was a temporary strong brine soak, which draws liquid from the cukes. It worked easily, but it was hard to know if the cucumbers were all in good condition. Now, I wanted to be able to use any type of cucumber and factor in that the crescent shape was a problem in loading fermentor jars with whole cucumbers. What if I prepped the cucumber into bite sized shapes and got rid of the parts to the raw veggie that impeded good, toothsome texture? What if I peeled and seeded them? That worked. Finally, what if I put them in a colander and dry-salted them instead of using a saltwater brine. Bingo!
What if I used a variety of cucumbers depending on what looked freshest. And what if I also snuck some zucchini in to see if I could turn a lot of zucchini into a some of the dill pickles? Double bingo!
Finally, what if I don’t have fresh dill, which is often between growing seasons? Can I use just pickling spices and garlic to create a tasty, New World Dill Pickle? Readers, you can make them in just a few minutes prep time and create a tasty dill pickle by the quart or half-gallon any time of year. This is not your great grandma’s cellar pickle any more. We are up in the kitchen with family and friends fermenting a great living food. I have tested the firmness factor for several weeks and the chips stay al dente. It is one of my go-to pickles and there is always a quart on hand.
And to gild the lily, I will show you how to make a batch of Bread and Butter Dills and Spicy Dills from the same basic batch. This makes for another arrow in the quiver of what I call, Pronto Pickles—recipes that can be made lightning fast and in small batches. This is artistry and a hobby we get to eat and share! Brine pickling becomes you...
Dill Pickle Chips - 1 Qt. Recipe
1.25 LBS. (.57 KG) cucumbers per quart
• Choose fresh cucumbers
• Avoid pithy ones (they're fresh, but picked past their prime size)
• If thin skin, alternate strips of peel
• Use common pickling spice blend from supermarket, salt-free, or make your own blend (recipe at bottom)
• With a prepared blend you will need only 15 minutes prep time to complete a batch.
4 Steps to Prep Cucumbers
1-1/4 LBS (.57 kg) cucumbers, ends trimmed and made into chips
3-6 tsp. fresh garlic, chopped
2 tsp. pickling spice blend (see homemade recipe below)
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder (opt.), traditional, provides yellow color to chips
1 Prepare the cucumbers and place chips in a colander resting on a plate. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of fine sea salt and toss. Wait 30 minutes, then rinse well.
2 Place the spices and garlic in the bottom of a clean, 1 Qt. (1 L) canning jar.
3 Review Page 8 in the instruction booklet and make up the brine using a half-teaspoon less salt.
4 Add the cucumber chips to the jar and complete sealing using the Perfect Pickler kit (P. 8).
It has been my intent in my cooking school to make a recipe work in many ways. I use the term Recipe Multiplicity to open up possibilities in creating a more versatile recipe. How else can we make it?
Dill Pickles are perfectly fitted for R-M. In fact, it's best to make a 2-quart (2 L) or larger batch, and then break the finished recipe into extra jars to perfect Bread and Butter Dills and Spicy Dills. Now you have 3 recipes from one basic one.
To make Bread and Butter Dills, complete the basic recipe using the traditional fermentation of 4 days at 70 F (21 C). For every 1 Qt. (1 L) of combine 2 TBS. each apple cider vineger and sugar (or agave nectar or other sweetener) to the jar. Wait 24 hours and taste to adjust.
To make Spicy Dills, add 1 tsp. or more red pepper flakes, or Korean chile flakes, or chile powder of choice. Wait 24 hours and taste to adjust.
To make Full-Sour Dill Pickles, add 2 TBS. apple cider vinegar to the finished basic recipe. Wait 24 hours and taste to adjust.
Dill Pickle Cauliflower
or Sweet Onions or Asparagus
You can not believe what great flavor dill, garlic, and brine imparts to other veggies. This is the newest of New World Dills ready for you to explore.
Pickling Spice Blend
Like any popular food, there are as many recipes for pickling spices as there are picklers. I created a Dilly Dozen and you may want more or less. The key ones I will highlight in red.
1 tsp. each: celery seed, yellow mustard seed, brown mustard seed, allspice berries, coriander seed, cracked peppercorns, 2 crushed bay leaves, turmeric powder, powdered ginger
4 whole star anise
2 tsp.: dill seed,
Fresh dill fronds (loose cup)