Sometimes you look at a recipe and instantly know something isn't right.
Take this one for Cajun pickles from a certain book on pickling. At the top of the recipe it says the yield will be four quarts of pickles. But only a few lines lower down it calls for a gallon of water for the brine. A gallon consists of four quarts, right? So if you fill your four quart jars with a gallon of brine, where is there room left for the pickles?
Another issue I have with most pickling recipes is their method of describing quantities for the main ingredient. Often you will see something like, "50 Kirby cucumbers, about the size of your index finger." Well, what if you don't have cucumbers exactly that size? What if you have some that are that size, but others that aren't? What if the only cucumbers you have are the size of your arm? It would make much more sense to give a weight for the cucumbers involved.
Also in this particular recipe there are terms that cry out for definition. For instance, it calls for 1 tablespoon of "Cajun seasoning." Any idea what that is? I was determined not to buy any new spices for these pickles because I already have a closet full. But I checked at the store. The Paul Prudhomme and Emeril spice blends list identical ingredients: salt, paprika, dried onion and garlic. That's easy: I have plenty of salt, paprika, garlic salt and onion powder.
The recipe also calls for "Italian seasoning." Any guesses there? A quick Google search leads to the McCormick blend, which contains marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano and basil. Between my spice cabinet and my herb garden I have all of those. But to simplify things, and because these pickles have so many flavors going on already, I paired this down to dried oregano, marjoram and thyme.
Finally, the recipe also includes "pickling spice." I addressed the issue of "pickling spice" in a previous post. This ingredient covers the waterfront and can pretty much include almost anything you want, from mustard and fennel seed to juniper berries, bay leaf and cinnamon. If you think you may have call to use it in the future, you might purchase a pre-made blend at the store. McCormick makes one. Or, make your own using your personal preferences.
In the end, using a little more than 3 pounds of cucumbers I cut the original Cajun pickle recipe by 75 percent and still had enough brine to cover three quarts of pickles. Go figure.
For 3 pounds cucumbers:
1/4 cup pickling salt (or additive-free sea salt)
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 quart (4 cups) cold water
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon chili powder (I used passilla pepper)
pinch cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and minced
3 pounds cucumbers, whole, halved or quartered
3 thin slices red onion
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and cut into thin strips
3 cherry peppers, cut in half, seeded and deveined
Mix the salt, vinegar and water in a non-reactive bowl. Stir until salt is completely dissolved. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix.
Pack the cucumbers, onion, jalapeno and cherry peppers into three clean quart jars. Pour brine into jars so that cucumbers are completely covered. (If you run out of brine, just top off the jars with a little water, leaving about 1/2 inch headroom.) Screw on lids, tip jars to distribute spices and allow to ferment at room temperature for at least three days, then refrigerate another five days before eating. Alternatively, if you like your pickles more "sour," allow them to ferment longer before placing them in the refrigerator. They should keep several weeks chilled.
Note: The strongest heat in peppers resides in the seeds and the interior veins. I use a paring knife or a melon baller to remove all of this material before placing the peppers in the pickling jars.