Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hidden Pickles

Wouldn't you know it. Just when I was thinking we might never see ripe cucumbers I ran across a bunch of them hiding in the garden.

Cucumbers can be sneaky devils. They don't make a sound. They hide amongst the foliage and if you don't look for them carefully, you won't see them until they're the size of footballs. I got these at just the right moment. The largest is no more than about five inches long. They were way down low where I was trimming the grass along the edge of the cucumber bed. You have to move a few leaves to the side to spot them.

I grow my cucumbers for pickling and there are a couple of issues to consider. First, I don't have many ready to pick yet. I could purchase more at the Whole Foods, but I decided to just use my own and make a small batch. Secondly, my preferred method is to ferment the cucumbers for a deli-style sour pickle. But it's a little warm this time of year. The ideal fermentation temperature is around 68 degrees. I'll just have to find a relatively cool place in the house to stash them.

First I measured enough water to generously cover my pickles and it came to 1 1/2 quarts (six cups). To make "half-sours," I dissolve 3 tablespoons pure sea salt (no additives, or use pickling salt) in the water and pour it into a small plastic food-grade bucket. Add the cucumbers sliced in half lengthwise. Then from the garden I harvested nearly a whole dill plant--the seed head and several branches. I cut these from the stem and added them to the bucket, along with cloves from two heads of our home-grown garlic and about a dozen black peppercorns.

Cover the pickles with a ceramic plate that just fits inside the bucket, and weigh this down with a sealed plastic container filled with water. Cover everything with a clean dish towel to keep the dust out and place the bucket in a dark, cool spot, maybe in the basement.

Check on the pickles in a couple of days. They're done when they taste just right to you, maybe in a week. To stop the fermentation, put the pickles in their brine in the refrigerator. You can also boil the brine to kill the bacteria, then chill it and add the pickles later.

I will be keeping an eye on these and reporting on their progress as time goes by.


Anonymous said...

I just started a batch from 2 pounds of cukes I picked up at the Adams Morgan market. I followed the recipe here:

It sounds like you can increase the salt level when the temperature is higher. The higher salt level helps slow down the bacteria. Our apartment is about 77 degrees. I will let you know how my batch turns out

WeekendFarmer said...

Love the pickle picture. Yo inspire me. I am yet to get any Cucumber. I think your blog tells me what is to come our way weather wise: ) fun!

If you get any more sneaky cucumber thats not good for pickles....try making Shrimp and Cucumber curry. You will be hooked.

How is dad?

David Hall said...

I'm keeping a close eye on mine at the moment Ed! They are just flowering, I'm ridiculously excited as it is the 1st time I've grown them....


Weeping Sore said...

I recently discovered you through other kitchen garden blog links. I live/garden in San Diego now, but grew up in Silver Spring. I've been veggie gardening for long enough to know what I grow tastes better than what I buy. Now, I'm trying to learn how to preserve stuff. I'm saving your recipe for next year. I didn't plant cukes this year because it got to hot to soon.

Ed Bruske said...

Luke, it's true, you can vary the amount of salt. I thought that mostly resulted in a more or less salty pickle. I wasn't aware that it acted as a break on the fermentation process. Putting the pickles in the refrigerator certainly will.

WF, I am intrigued by the idea of curry, cucumbers and shrimp. I will check some of my Indian references for a recipe.

David, we have dozens of flowers on our cucumber plants right now. I think I'm going to have to start pruning them as they are growing in every direction. This looks to be a very good year for pickles.

WS, watch this space. We will be preserving lots of stuff as time goes by.

WeekendFarmer said...

Its a Bengali recipe. I will do a post on it on my blog. Will keep you posted : )

Bob C said...

It's been a while, they should be good and sour by now..

I love sour pickles, the kind that make you pucker up, and make you drool when you remember the taste days later.

Wife just bought a huge amount of cukes at the Loveville Produce aucton, now what!!??