A healthy cucumber plant grows and produces fruit at an overwhelming rate once adequate warmth is reached. Unless you were defeated by the dreaded powdery mildew, chances are you are swimming in an overabundance of cucumbers, even if only one plant was grown. If you are getting tired of cucumber salads and sandwiches here is a simple recipe nearly every culture has practiced for thousands of years.
Although this method of pickling is a prominent part of everyone’s heritage, this age-old process tends to be unknown in the average modern-day household. The acidity you taste in a typical pickle is from the addition of vinegar as you would use in refrigerator pickling. The key that makes these classic kosher pickles extra tasty is the lack of vinegar. This ingredient is merely mocking the flavor of the traditional method in which lactic acid occurring naturally from the fermentation gives the cuke (or whatever you would like to pickle) a delicious signature sour flavor.
This recipe is not limited to cucumbers and works best with the pickling varieties although pickled slicing cucumbers are delicious as well. Implementing kosher pickling is a great way to utilize those pickling cucumbers which grew to an absurd length as they were hiding under many layers of foliage. As you may know, a giant pickling cuke already tastes rather bitter, not in a good way.
Here’s your solution per two lbs of washed, de-spined cucumbers:
In a large bowl dissolve 1/3 cup kosher salt into 1 cup boiling water. (This is the only step that requires heat and is simply to dissolve the salt more rapidly)
Add a handful of ice cubes to cool down the mixture
Add the cucumbers either whole, halved, or quartered making sure to cut off at least an inch of the flowering end (This end contains an enzyme which softens the cucumbers)
Add about a half to a whole head of garlic peeled and smashed, one large fresh bunch of dill preferably with flowers (two tablespoons dried dill and one teaspoon dill or coriander seeds may be substituted)Add cold water to cover
How to make a basic kosher pickling brine
Cutting off the flowering ends of the cucumbers is very important to achieve a crisp pickle. If you, a neighbor, or friend has a grape vine it is well worth including one large fresh grape leaf in this brine as well. Conversely to the flowering end of the cuke, grape leaves contain tannins which will keep your pickle crisp and crunchy. Tannins have been found to be beneficial to heart health as well. Other leaves containing tannins are white oak, sour cherry and horseradish. Some additional flavors may be added to the brine at will such as whole peppercorns, banana, cayenne or jalapeno peppers for a little zing, or anything you can think of. The sky is the limit. Share some of your ideas and successes!
Use a plate just a bit smaller than the diameter of the bowl to hold the cucumbers completely submerged. If your plate is not concave enough to hold some brine on top of it a weight may be required to hold your cukes underwater.
Keep the bowl at room temperature uncovered and begin sampling the pickles after four hours if you’ve quartered them, eight hours if you’ve halved them, and at least a day if you kept them whole. In any case it will probably take two to three days before they taste as pickled as you would like. Skim any foam off the surface of the brine when checking for pickley-ness.
At this point you may refrigerate them in their brine to slow down the fermentation process. They will keep well for a week unless you can them, though chances are they’ll be eaten within a week.