Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kabbalah of Pickles

ready for storage. taken with our super duper canon 60d
Pickle making has been an essential part of our summer experience for the last 7 years. I remember back in the early days, returning from the farmer's market with just a few bags of fruit and vegetables (nothing like our current habits) and Pinny taking all the cucumbers and pickling them. It was a tug of war, I wanted cucumbers for salads, he wanted to experiment. So I started buying more cucumbers and he thought he had more to experiment with. It's been a struggle, but we have reached a happy medium, where he now asks me "have I left enough for you?" We are so grown up, Pinny and I. Also helpful is that I now purchase many, many cucumbers.

In a similar fashion to our falafel journey, pickle making didn't come easy. The (failed) attempts resulted in pickles that had too much salt, not enough salt, wouldn't sour, were way too spicy or tasted just plain weird. What has evolved (if I may) is the perfect pickle. Crunchy, salty, sour.

How to make a 1/2 gallon of Pinny's Perfect Pickles:
10-15 cucumbers - depending on the size. Kirby or Persian cucumbers work best
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
2-3 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 sprig fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
1-2 fresh bay leaves
1 jalapeno pepper
Pinny of Pinny's Perfect Pickles

Directions: Place salt, garlic, dill and spices in a jar. Add cucumbers. Fill with water. Seal well.

Variations: Add carrots, turnips, whole green tomatoes, peeled and sliced lemon (not too much)

Teeny tiny tips and other points from Pinny:
* Buy the freshest cucumbers you can find. If there's a little sticker on them that says Product of Mexico, that won't do (unless of course, you live in Mexico). Farmers Markets are a great source (for markets in the US click here), but if you go into a supermarket during cucumber season, ask the produce manager for locally grown cucumbers.
* 1/2 gallon Ball jars are great for pickling.
* Pickles don't need cooking. Many recipes call for cooking, but Pinny's Perfect Pickles don't.
* Pickles don't need vinegar. The sour flavor is naturally developed.
* Refrigerate pickles after opening. (don't refrigerate earlier)
* When pickling a cucumber in salt, you are essentially encouraging the pickle to ferment. The salt preserves the pickles.
* Fill the jar with water till it's overflowing and seal well - this is as close to airtight as you get.
* Don't use pickling spices! Pickling spices have a very distinct flavor that don't belong in our pickles.
* Don't think of eating them until they've pickled for 3-4 weeks, but a few months is all the better.

a summer worth of pickles. (we've already enjoyed some)

Happy Pickling!


PS. This post made possible by the efforts of many. Thanks first to Pinny Lew, Pickle Maker Extraordinaire (among his many talents), who tries and tries and never gives up. Also, for being such a great sport and letting me post a wacky picture of you. Thanks to Cheved for taking some of the pix for this post, and to Zevi for the title. I'm surrounded by talent!


  1. I look forward to your blog posts! Loving the family talents involved.

  2. I so want to try making these!!