Friday, September 12, 2008

Homemade Pickles

Homemade Pickles, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.
Let me preface this by saying that I am an amateur canner. No one has died from my canning...yet...

That said, the canning I did this year has turned out remarkably well! The Summer Berry Jam has been a big, big hit with everyone, and my latest batches of dill pickles and other pickled veggies have also been delicious.

I say "latest" batches, but I actually made these about 6 weeks ago when pickling cukes & okra were in abundance at the farmers' markets. That's the part about making pickles that I have a problem with - the waiting for the pickling to occur, for the flavors to develop. I'm kind of an impatient person, and this whole 'delayed gratification' thing you have to accept with homemade pickles is, well, hard to accept.

But it's sooooo worth it! Homemade pickles, whether made from cucumbers, okra, green beans, or other veggies, are really delicious and so much more flavorful (and dare I say 'fun') than store bought. Plus, when you're making your own you can try different spices and seasonings and really come up with something unique...for instance...

Cardamom is my secret weapon in spicing up homemade pickles, specifically green cardamom pods. Cardamom is a small seedpod frequently ground or stewed in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, and it adds a really...sultry...flavor to many dishes. (Heck, I even put it in chocolate cake!) You can find cardamom pods in specialty markets; skip the ground, bottled stuff in the spice rack for canning - you want the whole pods.

The recipe below can be used on any veg that will stand up to pickling (and that's most, but crunchy green ones are the best). I used the same brine & seasoning to make pickled okra and cucumbers (as you can see in the photo above). I go light on the dill because I like the other flavors, but that's just a personal preference. Again, part of the charm of making your own homemade pickles. Give it a try - you'll become a convert like me!

The brine*
5 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon peppercorns (I use a mix of green, white, red & black)
5 cups water
3 T fresh dill

*This will make enough brine for about 4 pint jars, depending on the veg you use in the pickle.

The pickle
1-2 lbs fresh, washed vegetables (enough to fill the 4 pint jars)
4 cloves of garlic
4 teaspoons peppercorns
4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed open
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, divided into 1/8 tsp
4 small heads of dill, totaling about 1/4 cup in all

Prepare your canning jars and lids as instructed by the USDA. Serious stuff here, so really take care to have a clean, sterile environment for your canning.

Cut the vegetables as needed to fit the jars. If you're pickling okra DO NOT cut them open...the gelatinous goop inside that makes gumbo so thick & rich will make your pickles, well, icky.

To make the brine, boil all its ingredients for 3 minutes.

Into each of your hot, prepared jars put 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp peppercorns, 1 cardamom pod, and 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes. Then add your veggies, then add 1 head of dill, pushing it slightly down into the veggies so that it's not alone by itself at the top of your jar. Using a canning funnel, fill the jar with the brine, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the jar and the rim, place the canning lid & ring, and prepare in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Allow flavors to develop for at least 4 weeks before opening. But as soon as that 4th week is over crack one of 'em babies open & crunch away! These are great served as part of a ploughman's plate or cheese spread, or of course just by themselves. They will keep up to a year in a cool, dark place, and up to a month after opening in the 'fridg.

*Brine recipe adapted from one of the most fascinating cookbooks I've read in a long time, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman (Author), Brian Polcyn (Author), Thomas Keller (Foreword).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for telling me about this blog. What great recipes -- I can't wait to try some. I will be checking in on a regular basis!