Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mustard Pickles

We have spared no effort in our relentless search for the world's best pickles. Meaning, we pulled every book with a pickling recipe from our cookbook library and dove in.

This particular preparation for mustard pickles involves no fermentation or anything even resembling a fermentation, unless you count the soaking overnight in hot water. It comes from a book titled, "Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions," by Lucy Norris. And here you will find more pickling recipes than you could possibly ever use. Some are quite tantalizing. One calls for solarizing cucumbers in a brine with a slice of rye bread. Another is heavy with cajun spices. And there's an intriguing stuffed cucumber kimchi.

I am dubious about some of the quantities called for in the original mustard pickle recipe. It calls for "27 to 29 small Kirby cumbers, about 7 pounds" to fill four pints. Four pints? I'd like to see someone try to stuff seven pounds of cucumber into seven pint jars. My experience calls for something closer to one pound for each pint jar. The original formula also calls for 4 cups of distilled white vinegar for the brine. I halved the recipe and still had plenty of brine left over.

So I am giving my adjusted version:

2 pounds cucumbers, each about 4 inches long (or cut to fit)
4 cups water
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1/8 cup pickling salt, or additive-free sea salt
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/8 teaspoon Splenda
1/8 cup sugar

Wash cucumbers, slice into halves, then place in a non-reactive bowl. Bring water to a boil, pour over cucumbers and let sit overnight.

Sterilize two pint canning jars and lids according to manufacturer's instructions. Meanwhile, mix vinegar, salt, mustard, Splenda and sugar. Pack cucumbers into hot jars, then cover with brine, leaving at least 1/4 inch headroom. Screw on lids and process in boiling water for 12 minutes according to manufacturer's instructions.

Store for at least one week before eating. Refrigerate after opening jars. Otherwise, the sealed jars should keep for many months.


The Well Read Gardener said...

Just wanted to pop in and say 'hi.' I've been reading your blog for just a few weeks now after running onto it I'm sure through a gardening blog of some kind because I read a lot of gardening blogs. I love to vegetable garden, can, and pickle and you inspire me so much! I'm 26 and some people give me the strangest look when I start to excitedly talk about gardening, canning, and pickling. You've given me a ton of ideas and I am very grateful!

Sharon said...

I've been reading your blog faithfully for about a month now, and have since then started composting and faithfully shopping at my local farmer's market (Arlington, VA). I too am grateful to be able to benefit from your wisdom, humor, and experience in the garden and the kitchen. My plan is to have a vegetable garden next summer.

I have a question about today's post. Why would you use Splenda in the pickle recipe? Given your obvious preference for "real food," I'm puzzled by this. Thanks in advance for your response, if you have the time.

Ed Bruske said...

Well Read, stay tuned. We're going to be pickling and preserving a whole lot of interesting stuff as the season progresses. We are gearing up for Thanksgiving.

Sharon, you will be very glad you started your own vegetable garden. There's nothing like being able to walk outside the door and harvest dinner. Or even a salad.

As for the Splenda, I was being mostly faithful to the original recipe, which called for "saccharin, like Sweet 'n Low." I happen to have a truckload of Splenda from a previous life. Some people even eschew sugar, but then where would our pickles be? I put this in the same category as Thanksgiving ham with Dr. Pepper glaze, or Altoids in the T-bone rub, or Krispy Kreme bread pudding. These are all part of the American lexicon. The great part about recipes--as my wife loves to remind me--is you don't have to follow them exactly. Adjust them any way you wish to suit your tastes and food preferences. I don't advocate Splenda, and I'm not sure I would do this recipe again quite this way. It's just a record of what I did.