Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fermented Dill Pickles

For years, I have been on the quest to make the perfect crispy, fermented dill pickle.  I've made bunches of batches, and they have ranged from salty enough to melt the ice from the sidewalks, to vinegary enough to wash the windows.  And pretty much all the time, they have been a soggy, limp, nasty consistency. 

But this is a new year!  With new research and new ideas!  So without further ado, I will share the (hopefully) Improved 2013 Fermented Dill Pickles recipe. 

First important ingredient: fresh cucumbers.  It is important to get fresh-picked-today small pickling cucumbers (not the slicing variety) because if you start out with soft cucumbers, the softness will only get worse with the pickling.

Next important step: take a tiny slice off the end that had the blossom.  Since it was sometimes hard to figure out which end to cut, I decided to slice off both ends.  This also created a more uniform look.

But why cut off the ends one at a time?  Let's do a bunch at once.  

Next, the fresh ingredients.  The first one of note is the fresh grape leaves.  This is a new technique for me this year, one I am trying based on my research.  I found out that adding fresh grape leaves to a crock of fermenting cucumbers adds tannin, which helps keep the pickles more crisp.  And also, I added fresh dill and (not pictured) garlic and onions. 

Next: the crock.  The crock needs to be cleaned, and totally free of contaminates and any fats or oils which can make for soft pickles.  Before filling, I wash my crock thoroughly, then run boiling water down the sides.  Then you can start filling by adding the fresh grape leaves, garlic, onions, and spices.

And ..... here they are!  Fermented dill pickles, packed into jars.  I let the crock sit for about a month, and the pickles ended up a little soft - but the flavor was good!  So I would recommend letting these sit for one to two weeks, then put them in jars and refrigerate them.

Fermented Dill Pickles

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp alum
In Crock:

  • 1 cup pickling spice
  • 4 fresh grape leaves
  • 1 bulb garlic, peeled
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 or 3 dill weed heads
  • 1 garlic scape
  • 5-6 pounds baby cucumbers, scrubbed and blossom end trimmed

Lay "in crock" items in the bottom of your cleaned crock, and place the cucumbers on top.  In another large bowl, mix together brine ingredients and stir until the salt is dissolved.  Pour over cucumbers.

Let sit for one to two weeks, then pack into jars and refrigerate. 

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