I’ve been buying lots of great produce from an upstart food cooperative in my neighborhood, The Bushwick Food Coop (I also post fun recipes on their website!). On a recent pickup, there was a huge box of surplus yellow cucumbers for the taking. And, as if a message sent from above – a bundle of flowering dill up for grabs as well. I gathered as much as would fit in my reusable shopping bags and ran home to stick it all in brine. You see, sour dill pickles made by fermenting cucumbers in a salt water brine are my absolute favorite! Half sour…full on sour…bring it on by the bucket full! Salt concentration in the brine creates and environment in which friendly yeasts on the surface of the cucumbers can thrive and other – less desirable – microbes are kept at bay. Along with the fermentation caused by yeasts at work; the flowering dill, black peppercorns, coriander and mustard seeds give these jewish deli staples their characteristic flavor. The amount of salt in your brine is important as well. Lower concentration will allow a quick fermentation and thus less – or shall we say half – sour flavor. More salt will slow down the fermentation and result in a more pronounced sourness. All this souring action takes place between 65 and 75 degrees F, and lasts about three days for the half sours and five for the full. The cucumbers must be held completely under the brine, lest exposed sections fall victim to nasty molds. Food grade plastic bags filled with the same brine your cucumbers are swimming in will help weigh them down. Any yeasty scum that rises to the top should be periodically skimmed away. Once the fermentation is complete, your pickles can live in the fridge or be canned properly – unless you eat them all first, that is. This is an easy project. Sure, there are some missteps that can be made along the way, but once you have it down it’s almost effortless. Then you can move on to perfecting your own pastrami!
For more explicit instructions and salt – water ratios, you can find endless guidance on the web. I like to tweak things from project to project, so don’t have a perfected recipe to share just yet. My favorite pickling recipe book is The Joy of Pickling. Don’t hesitate to grab a copy if you plan to do any pickling in your lifetime. It’s worth every cent!