I started my third batch of pickles yesterday. The second batch could not be categorized as a success in my eyes, although Darcy and Layla thought they were okay. While the first batch was “too salty” and “too spicy” if such a thing exists, the second was bland and soggy. Classic over-compensation in the recipe change.
One thing I’ve learned (we’ll see how these turn out) is that if you aren’t starting with freshly picked cucumbers you should soak them in super cold water for a few hours before pickling. This is supposed to keep them more crisp. I did this with my batch of pickles, which was at least a week old when I processed them yesterday. I’ve also seen that calcium-chloride with keep them crisp, and I’ve read that grape leaves will do the same. I trimmed our grape vines yesterday, but wasn’t up to trying out grape leaves in the pickles, so I went with the cold water bath instead.
Here is my revised recipe:
2 3/4 ounces pickling salt, approximately 1/4 cup
2 quarts filtered water
1/4 cup white pickling vinegar
4 pounds pickling cucumbers, 3 to 4-inches long
3/4 tablespoon coarsely ground black peppercorns
3/4 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried garlic
3 large bunches of dill with mature seeds
1 gallon pickle jar (vlassic from Costco is my choice)
- Place the cucumbers in the gallon pickle jar and fill with filtered water. Place in the refigerator for 3-4 hours.
- Once the cucumbers have chilled and you’re ready to begin, combine the salt and water in a pitcher and stir until the salt has dissolved.
- Add the vinegar to the brine solution.
- Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly, rubbing of any dirt and snip off 1/8″ from both ends, ensuring you remove any remnants of the blossom end stem. Set aside.
- Place the peppercorns, pepper flakes, garlic, and two bunches of the dill into a 1-gallon jar. Add the cucumbers to the jar on top of the aromatics, packing the largest cucumbers on the bottom. You should have just enough cucumbers to pack them up to the shoulder of the jar, which will keep them submerged under the brine. If you do not have enough, then use the bag of water technique described below.
- Pour the brine mixture over the cucumbers in order to completely cover. Pour the remaining water into a 1-quart ziptop plastic bag and seal, removing as much air as possible. Place the bag on top of the pickles making sure that all of them are completely submerged in the brine. Set in a cool (70-75 degrees is desireable), dry place.
- Check the jar everyday. After 3 days fermentation has begun if you see bubbles rising to the top of the jar. After this, check the jar daily and skim off any scum that forms. If scum forms on the plastic bag, remove the bag, rinse it off and return to the top of the jar. The brine should become darker each day.
- The fermentation is complete when the pickles taste sour and the bubbles have stopped rising; this should take approximately 6 to 7 days. Once this happens, cover the jar with a damp cloth and place in the refrigerator for 3 days, skimming daily or as needed.
- At this point you should have half-sour pickles. If you store the picklles for up to 2 months in the refrigerator, they will more slowly ferment, but will evently become full sours. If the pickles should become soft or begin to take on an off odor, this is a sign of spoilage and they should be discarded.