I am the pickle god.

This isn't a food blog like the red kitchen; the weber_cam is an unguided forum with no focus or agenda, so I figured I'd add my recent culinary contribution.

I've always liked my pickles crunchy, sour, slightly sweet with a hint of garlic. Even though there are as many flavors of pickles as there are bad hairstyles on ranting baptist ministers, I can't seem to find my favorite. So, I decided to try to make my own. Being a bit busy lately, I didn't feel like doing as much work as the recipes I read demanded. Pickles require two things: a brine - a salty, usually acidic sometimes sweet aqueous solution and something to pickle.

The brine
Scanning my favorite sources for brine recipes (Joy of Cooking, Cooks Illustrated, FoodTV and Cooking Light - I think Epicurious rots), I noted reasonable consensus on salt, sugar and acid concentration. But they all boil the solution. There's a tendency, in cookbooks, when preparing any aqueous solution of a readily soluble substrate, to boil it. I guess it makes people feel more like they're doing something sophisticated. Boiling the brine and applying it to the vegetables would take too long and more importantly, would cook the item of our affection. I wanted a crisp pickle. Industrially, vegetables are brined, cooked and finally, calcium chloride is added to get the crispiness back. Aside from using the leftover brine to melt ice in the winter, this process was unappealing. Why not try to pickle the vegetables uncooked and just let the process go longer at a lower temperature?

Maybe another reason to boil the brine is to kill bacteria, but with such a high acid and salt concentration, I don't think much bacterial growth is supported.

Something to pickle
Eventually, I'll use an assortment of vegetables. For now, cucumbers. Although I don't usually care whether I buy organic or not - with cucumbers, it's important. Non-organic (or as my not-exactly-type-A friends at the hippy market call it - inorganic) cucumbers are liberally coated in wax prior to coming to market. I don't think a brine, or nuclear waste, could permeate the flesh of those babies.

My Lazy Recipe for Pickled Cucumbers - That hasn't killed me yet
cucumbers, organic (I like small ones), about 1 - 1.5 pounds
plain old vinegar, 2 cups
water, 1 cup
salt, 1/4 cup
sugar, 1/4 cup
garlic, one clove whole - NOT smashed
spices, 2T of assorted - I just used McCormick brand pickling spices

1. Mix the solution of vinegar, water, sugar and salt at room temperature; everything should dissolve readily.
2. Add spices and cucumbers.
3. I placed everthing in one of those disposable plastic containers that I filled to the top so when I put the lid on, everything was submerged. I guess it's important for the pickled items to be away from sources of oxidation and be submerged in the brine, do it anyway you can.
4. Age the mixture about two days (the cucumbers shrink a bit) at room temperature.

Observations - future plans

  • Had my first two about 48 hours after doing this and they were unbelievable. Crisp, slightly sweet, sour and a hint of garlic. I honestly will never buy another pickled cucumber again.

  • The sour component was a bit strong. I may play with the salt and acid strength a bit.

  • I'm going to recycle the brine with some cauliflower and eventually try other vegetables (carrots, green beans, etc.)

  • Should be interesting to see how they taste over time. I plan to store them at room temperature but I don't think they'll last long enough to fully evaluate a shelf life.

  • Can't wait to repeat the procedure adding fresh dill to the spice mixture
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