I’m getting closer to my ideal dill pickle. The quest was especially feverish this fall because I had a bit of Montreal-style smoked meat in my fridge.
Year by year I’ve been making my pickling liquid more and more acidic. I like a sour pickle. This year, I used straight vinegar, without diluting with water. This might sound crazy, but it works. The pickles are a bit too sour immediately after jarring, but let them hang out in the cellar for a month, and they’re prefect. For me, anyways.
I’ve also been engineering the crunch-factor. We all want a very crisp pickle. This year I doused the fresh cucumbers with 5% of their weight in kosher salt, and let them stand for an hour or two to draw excess moisture and stiffen. This process yielded a 22% increase in crunchiness.
As for flavourings, year by year I’m adding less and less. At one time I would have had black peppercorns and mustard seed and coriander in the mix. This year there were only lightly crushed garlic cloves and whole heads of dill.
Following is the current version of my recipe. All ingredients are expressed as a percent of the weight of cucumbers used. (I don’t start out saying, “I’m going to pickle 5 pounds of cucumbers today,” but rather, “Holy Moses I have lots of cucumbers: I’m going to pickle about half of them.”)
The exact amount of liquid necessary will depend on your jars and how you fill them. If I have one pound of cucumbers, I typically use one pound of vinegar.
Dill Pickles: A Working Recipe
- 100% cucumbers, very fresh and firm, cut, if necessary, into pieces 3″-4″ long and at most 1″ wide
- 5% kosher salt
- 100% cider vinegar
- 25% granulated sugar
- 10% honey
- 3 garlic cloves for each pint jar
- 1 large head of dillweed for each pint jar
- Toss the cucumbers and kosher salt in a large bowl. Let the mixture stand until the cucumbers have released water, about one hour. Gently press the cucumbers to release more liquid.
- Sterilize the jars and lids. Add three cloves garlic and one large head of dillweed to each. Stuff each jar with the lightly cured cucumbers to within a half inch of the top.
- Combine cider vinegar, sugar, and honey in a large pot on the stove. Bring to a rapid boil.
- Pour the pickling liquid into the jars so that all contents are submerged.
- Lid the jars. Let stand at least two weeks before opening. Refrigerate after opening. Once the pickles have been eaten, reserve the liquid for pickle soup.