By Kerri Conan
Not to be confused with my shortcut brined-in-the-skillet version that ran on this page a couple weeks back. These are two quick refrigerated pickles backed by bona fides. The first comes from the book mentioned in that piece, my precious Quick Pickles. And then after the jump are Mark’s favorite kosher pickles, lifted verbatim from both the old and the new editions of How to Cook Everything. Another—totally different—winner.
As long as you don’t mess with the proportions in the brine, the flavors and ingredients are totally customizable.
To get to the gems you see in the photo—magnified and distorted as they begin their curing adventure—I pulled from two recipes in Quick Pickles: the Fresh Dill and Your Classic Bread and Butter. Here’s how: Scrub and trim about 5 pounds of pickling cucumbers. (We grow a 1924 variety called Double Yield, which I combined with very young, small Poona Kheera, a crazy-looking field cucumber from India that I’ll share in a future post.) Cut them into spears or thick chips (I did some of both). For good measure I tossed in some of our small onions.
Put the veggies in a big glass jar or ceramic crock, sprinkling as you go with whatever spices you want. I didn’t have a traditional pickling blend handy, so I tossed in whole peppercorns; coriander and black mustard seeds; 2 or 3 fresh, unripe, seeded habanero chiles (they’re not too hot) and several garlic cloves from the garden. For the dill, I used an assortment of seeds plucked from our dill patch; some were still green but most had begun to dry. And a pinch of turmeric for that golden pickly color.
All told you want close to a cup of seasonings. Some other suggestions from the book: fresh grated horseradish, celery seed, fresh dill heads or fronds (fennel is another good choice), bay leaves, thick red onion crescents. Or try adding warm spices like cinnamon sticks (I like star anise), and allspice or cloves.
Now combine 3 cups wine or cider vinegar with 6 cups water and 1/2 cup kosher salt in a big pot and bring it to a boil. If you want to balance the vinegar with some sweetness—and work your way into a bread-and-butter pickle—add up to 2 1/2 cups granulated or brown sugar and stir the pot to dissolve it. (I added no sugar in this batch.) Pour enough of the brine over the stuff in the jar to submerge everything. Cool to room temperature, then resist the urge to sneak a taste for 2 days—long enough to let them do their thing. Covered tightly they’ll last in the fridge for a couple months.
And now, for Mark’s slightly more perishable, utterly classic pickle recipe. While you read this, I’m heading downstairs to raid the pickle jar.
Mark’s Kosher Pickles, the Right Way
Makes: About 60 pickle quarters or 30 halves
Time: 1 to 2 days
From Mark’s headnote: “No vinegar here, so these don’t keep for very long (about a week), but they’ll be eaten quickly enough that you’ll never see one go bad. These are my favorite pickles and those of everyone for whom I’ve made them too.” All true of course, but if you miss your vinegar, you can always add it to the brine after curing or sprinkle a few drops on the pickles directly right before eating. That gives you better control over the acidity anyway.
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 cup boiling water
2 pounds Kirby cucumbers, washed (scrub if spiny) and halved or quartered lengthwise
At least 5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large bunch fresh dill, preferably with flowers, or 2 tablespoons dried dill and 1 teaspoon dill seeds, or 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1. Combine the salt and boiling water in a large bowl; stir to dissolve the salt. Add a handful of ice cubes to cool the mixture, then add all the remaining ingredients.
2. Add cold water to cover. Use a plate slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl and a small weight to keep the cucumbers immersed. Set aside at room temperature.
3. Begin sampling the cucumbers after 4 hours if you’ve quartered them, 8 hours if you’ve halved them. In either case, it will probably take from 12 to 24 or even 48 hours for them to taste pickly enough to suit your taste.
4. When they are ready, refrigerate them, still in the brine. The pickles will continue to ferment as they sit, more quickly at room temperature, more slowly in the refrigerator. They will keep well for up to a week.