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How to choose cucumbers for pickling

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Q:  How do I choose the best cucumbers for brine fermenting?

A:  We want small pickling varieties, about the size of your thumb: Kirby, Gherkin, Mini-English (a new hydroponic variety found year round in larger supermarkets and big-box clubs). Skip the big, fat common varieties used for salads.  Fresh is most important—it is hard to tell a three-day-old cucumber from a 13-day one. And it matters! But there are ways to know. Cucumbers should have:

  • Dry skin with some goose bumps. (Exception: Mini-English have no goose bumps and are slightly shiny.)

  • Either stem or flower end still attached and the stem still has some green to be seen

  • No yellowing

  • No inward puckering or sink holes

  • No sweatiness or shine

  • Feel firm and have heft for their size

  • Never assume a package or bunch of cucumbers are all from the same field and time. There is an old craft in vegetable vending: average out your unsold stock with your new stock. This might work in making salads, but not in making dill pickles.

 Best Seasonal Sources

  • Summer-Late Summer: your garden, farmers market, local growers, U-Picks

  • Any other time of year: mini-English (hydroponic), or unwaxed, small imported cukes. For those of you who live near a Publix supermarket, they have packages labeled “salad cucumbers” that are unwaxed and are oversized Kirby’s from Mexico. They work well, but you need to look carefully through the packages and eliminate any oldies. Open just enough packages (they allow you) to gather one pound fresh cukes per quart.

If you can’t find fresh cukes, please don’t make dill pickled cucumbers, instead, make dill pickled:

  • Cauliflower, or

  • Asparagus, or

  • Vidalia Onion, or

  • Giardinieri (mixed vegetables.)

These veggies produce the same great mouthfeel of dill, garlic, and salt.

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