‘Tis the season for pickling! Summer is here and vegetable gardens everywhere are thriving. It’s always good to have a few recipes on hand deal with a bumper crop of veggies, and pickling is such a quick and healthy way to keep vegetables from spoiling and preserving all their valuable nutrients. I’ve already shared my pickled green bean recipe HERE and now it’s time to visit an American classic, the pickled cucumber. That familiar tangy, vinegary crunch goes hand in hand with summer picnics, cookouts campouts, ball games and in my opinion no burger is complete without a compliment of “extra extra” pickles to round out the flavor palate. Sure you could buy these little beauties from the grocery store for a few dollars, but be aware that unless you’re buying an organic product, you don’t know the conditions those cucumbers were grown in. They could be full of all sorts of scary pesticides and herbicides. In addition, commercial pickles are often brined with citric acid, which is commonly derived from corn. If avoiding corn products, especially the potential for GMO-sourced corn, is a concern for you, you may do well to avoid these commercial products. Not to mention many of the major brands pasteurize their products, which kills off all the good probiotics nature provides us in brined lacto-fermented foods like the amazing pickle. The good news is that homemade pickles are super easy to make and ready to gobble down in just a few days, contain all the health-promoting bacteria commercial pickles are lacking in, and in my opinion are far tastier than any of the sad, sorry options you can find at the grocery store.
What you’ll need to get started:
- 5-10 pickling cucumbers
- 3 TB good quality salt
- 8 cups filtered water (NOT tap water, which is treated to kill microbes. Don’t worry, the salt brine prevents the growth of any undesirable bacteria in your pickles while allowing good bacteria to thrive)
- 1 TB dried dill or 2 handfulls fresh dill
- 2-5 garlic cloves
- 1 TB mustard seeds
- 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes (use sparingly, these add a LOT of bite to the mix)
- 2-3 mason jars with lids
Mix the salt into the water and set aside. Give the cucumbers a good rinse and then cut them to your desired shape and thickness. I prefer thick coin shapes, but spears or thin coins should work as well. The bigger the chunks, the longer the crunch will withstand the brine before turning soggy. Place the seasonings into the bottom of the mason jar. Dump the cucumbers into the jar, then fill the jar with salt water leaving about ½ inch of space at the top, and screw the lid on loosely (allowing the fermentation gasses to escape while preventing bugs and dust from getting into the mix). Leave the jars somewhere out of the way at room temperature for 3-4 days, then dig in! Stick them in the fridge and they should last about 3 months (though I highly doubt there will be any left after a week or two if you love pickles like I do!)
What’s your favorite food to pair with pickles? Do you have any special seasonings you like to add to your pickle brine?