Homesteading In The Pacific Northwest

Sunday, June 24, 2012

In A Pickle ...

I believe that I have mentioned that I'm a relative newbie at gardening.  I certainly proved it last week!  My friend Carolyn was over for a joint canning extravaganza (post on that coming soon).  We were walking around looking at my garden when she noticed my cucumbers and mentioned that they were over ripe and needed to be picked.  Later I went back and looked at them and thought "no, they're all leathery and fuzzy ... I need to wait for them to get smoother...".  So I waited ... and waited ... and waited ... because I still didn't get it!   I thought the cucumbers went from this ... this ....

When, of course, because these are a pickling cucumber, they go from this... this ....

...when they are over ripe and need to be picked.  "Carolyn, I can here you snickering out there!"

So that would be why I have a whole basket full of very over ripe cucumbers that are useless for pickling! *sigh*

Thankfully my friends at a local produce shop had a whole bunch of  pickling cucumbers and were only too happy to let me buy some of them ... so now on to the recipe portion of our program ...

I've been seeing a lot of posts about fermented dill pickles on some of the cooking blogs that I follow with many different recipes and decided that I wanted to give it a try. Carol (Annie's Granny) shared a recipe with me after I asked about pickling.  I used the technique in the recipe Carol sent me with a few variations of my own and made up my own recipe for the pickling spice...

Spice Blend for Dill Pickles

1/2 cup  brown or yellow mustard seeds (I used a combination of both)
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1/4 cup allspice
1/4 cup peppercorns (I used rainbow peppercorns)
4 - 3" cinnamon sticks, crushed
1/4 cup dill seeds
1 tablespoon whole cloves
5 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

For The Pickles:

1/4 cup pickling spice blend
1 head fresh dill
1 cup vinegar
3/4 cup sea salt
1 gallon water (chlorine free)
4 - 8 cloves garlic, peeled (optional - I used 4 since I don't like garlicky pickles)
enough pickling cucumbers to fill a crock about 3/4 full ... (preferably from your own garden, not the ones you had to buy because you didn't know the difference between a ripe and an over ripe cucumber "Quit snickering, Carolyn."

 First I put the water, salt and vinegar into a large bowl and stirred it a few times to dissolve the salt (some of the recipes say to heat it up to dissolve the salt, but the sea salt dissolves just fine without heating and I didn't have to wait for it to cool down again).  Then I put the spice blend, garlic cloves, fresh dill head and the cucumbers in the crock and poured the brine over the cucumbers.  Most of the recipes say to weight the cucumbers down with a plate in the crock to keep them submerged in the brine.  I found that this didn't work very well for me ... first try finding a plate that fits into the crock and then when I finally did find one  the cucumbers kept escaping and popping up onto the plate... so instead I weighted the cucumbers down with  a plastic freezer bag filled with the leftover brine... wish I could take credit for that idea, but I saw it here.  One thing Erica didn't mention in her post was that you should put the empty bag into the top of the crock and then slowly add brine until the cucumbers are submerged.  Don't fill the bag full of brine and then plop it into the crock or the brine in the crock might overflow and make a big mess ... "go ahead, ask me how I know this"...

So after I cleaned up the mess it looked like this:

Now I needed to put the crock in a cool, dark place like a root cellar for a few weeks, except that we don't have a root cellar even though I've asked FitzGyver to build one for me ( root cellars, chickens, another puppy... sometimes he can be really stubborn) ... "So I'm using the guest room for a root cellar, FitzGyver, because it's cool and dark in there most of the time and hopefully none of our guests will complain that it smells like garlic and potatoes and fermenting pickles." ...but I digress...

The next step is to check the crock every day and skim off any scum that forms on the top and theoretically I will have deli style dill pickles in about 3 weeks.  I hope so ... I'll keep you posted...



Oops! One of my readers just pointed out that I never did the update on this post (thanks, Peggy!)
Well, after 3 weeks I rinsed the cukes in fresh water, made up a fresh batch of brine (the first batch became quite cloudy during the fermentation process) and transferred them to a gallon jar which now resides in the refrigerator ...

... and then I started a second batch!  Wow!  These are good!  After the second batch had fermented for 3 weeks I rinsed them and added them to the same mason jar ...

After 10 months they are still crisp!  I still have enough left to get us through the BBQ season (these are GREAT sliced and topping a hamburger) so I figure I'll make 2 more batches when ripe cucumber season rolls around  ... "I DO now know what a ripe cucumber looks like ... quit snickering, Carolyn!"



  1. Well, I got a giggle out of that!! I really need to go out and check my cucs today. I haven't been outside all day...I've been canning and cleaning my filthy house! I can't seem to find my maid :)

    I do my pickles the old fashion way too in a glass jar just like the one you are using. They will be great!

  2. Good luck with the pickles. I had so many cucumbers last year that it was difficult to keep up with them. Some very large ones resulted.

  3. I had no idea that's how you make them! I recently did a Google search trying to find the dill pickles I remember from my youth and bought Heinz on a recommendation. Unfortunately they're not what I remember and now I have 6 jars of them (min order)... Next year I'm going to try making my own! Thanks!

  4. Well that gave me a good chuckle! :D

    The pickles look like they are on their way to deliciousness. I have to make sure I get enough cukes for my annual batch of dill pickle relish (a must have for the pantry) but once that is properly covered - I will be doing a batch of traditional pickles too in the crock. I did a quick method last year and immediately regretted it - taste is NOT the same and I am going to end up tossing out the last of it because none of us is interested in eating them up.

  5. Yum! Good Luck and I hope they turn out for you; I'll be waiting to hear. I tried my hand at some of these too and I don't think they worked, but I will keep trying until I get it right!