Pickles are the Spice of Life!
Pickling cucumbers are starting to be harvested in our gardens, and you can find them in farmers markets around Seattle. They are small, bumpy cucumbers that are shaped like the letter “C”.
Dill, sweet, bread and butter — there are many types of pickles, and now is the perfect time to make them! You can make pickles by using the fermentation method, which can take up to 14 days, or you can make “quick” pickles that are preserved using vinegar and salt and can be canned in a few hours. Bread and butter pickles are flavored with turmeric and are traditionally cut in rounds. Sweet pickles are just that — made with sugar. Dill pickles are traditionally made with mustard seed, dill and other “pickling spices.”
“Pickling spices” are a mixture of spices that may contain the following: cinnamon, mustard seed, bay leaves, allspice, dill seed, cloves, ginger, peppercorns, coriander, juniper berries, mace, dried hot peppers or cardamom. Usually these spices are added directly to canning jars before adding cucumbers. Some recipes call for a sachet of spices to be added when creating the brine, then discarded before canning. You can use cheesecloth for this.
All pickle recipes include salt. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, both fermented and quick pickles can be made using iodized or non-iodized table salt. However, many table salts include non-caking materials that will make your brine cloudy. They do not recommend flaky salt, like kosher or sea salts, since the salt particles vary in density so much you may not use the right amount to ensure a safe product. You can find salt packaged specifically for pickling veggies.
Quick Fresh-Pack Dill Pickles
Recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation
- 8 pounds of 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
- 2 gallons water
- 1.25 cups canning or pickling salt
- 1.5 quarts white vinegar (make sure the label says 5%)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 quarts water
- 2 tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice
- About 3 tablespoons whole mustard seed (1-2 teaspoons per pint jar)
- About 14 heads of fresh dill (3 heads to 1.5 heads per pint jar)
- Or: 4.5 tablespoons dill seed (1 tablespoon to 1.5 teaspoons per pint jar)
- Wash cucumbers well and cut 1/16-inch slice off blossom end and discard, but leave ¼-inch of stem attached. If you leave the blossom end on, you will have slimy, soft pickles rather than crunchy ones.
- Dissolve 3/4 cup salt in 2 galons water. Pour over cucumbers and let stand 12 hours. Drain.
- Combine vinegar, 1/2 cup salt, sugar and 2 quarts water. Add mixed pickling spices tied in a clean piece of cheesecloth. Heat to boiling.
- Fill jars with cucumbers. Add 1 teaspoon mustard seed and 1.5 heads fresh dill per pint. Cover with boiling pickling solution, leaving 0.5 inch headspace.
- Screw on lids securely but not too tight.
- Can the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes for pints, 15 minutes for quart jars.