Cooking with Mandy: Homemade pickles

In Blog, Food by Mandy Kaewsowatana0 Comments

This week, things are getting pickley! We are pickling the fresh cucumbers that came in our CSA share.

If you ever have an abundance of vegetables and you just can’t seem to eat them quick enough, pickling is a great option! Pickling is a preservation method that’s been used for ages. The salt and vinegar thwart off spoilage, but also allow the cells in the food to break down just enough to tenderize, soften, and absorb flavor. The acid and enzymes in the salt and vinegar create an environment that is unfriendly to bacteria, so when sealed and stored properly, pickled foods last much longer than their non-pickled friends. The process is similar to fermenting, whereby salt, and, or another acid, acts as the preservation agent to ferment the food.

When choosing ingredients for your pickling, salt matters. Regular table salt, in other words know as iodized salt, has a fine grain and has iodine added to it, which can alter the taste. Kosher salt or sea salt tend to be more flaked and have a larger texture, which, for pickling, is a better option. For the vegetables, there is a lot of liberty here. Carrots, beets, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, cauliflower, onions, you name it, are all excellent pickle-worthy vegetables. The flavor component of your pickle brine can accommodate your taste buds as well. With salt, of course, being your base brining agent, you can experiment with other whole spices, such as anise seed, coriander, cumin, mustard seed, turmeric, or allspice. You can even add in other herbs and flavors, like garlic, ginger, scallions, bay leaves, and dried herbs. Some pickling brines also have sugar added to it to balance the acid and salt.

We keep it classic in our recipe, with cucumbers, white vinegar, garlic, and dill. We prefer our pickles without that sweet bite, so there’s no sugar in our recipe, but you can always add a couple teaspoons of sugar if you like your pickles sweet. Cucumbers with a thin skin, such as Persian or Kirby cucumbers, are ideal for turning into pickles, but if your cucumbers tend to have a thicker skin, don’t fret, they will still work just as well.

Homemade pickles

1 cup white distilled vinegar

1 cup water

1-1.5 Tbsp. kosher salt or sea salt

2 tsp. whole black peppercorns

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. dill seed (can substitute dried dill if don’t have dill seed)

2 large cucumbers

In a small sauce pot, bring the vinegar and water to a low simmer and add in the salt, peppercorns, garlic and dill seed. Allow the brine to simmer for about 1-2 minutes. Allow the brine to cool.

While the brine cools, cut the cucumbers. Cut the woodsy end of the cucumber off and slice the cucumber either into spears or circles, depending on your preference. Place the cucumbers in a jar or sturdy glass container and pour over the brining liquid. Seal the container and refrigerate for at least one week.

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