Pickling update

picklesI’m starting to think that maybe – just perhaps – I have planted too many cucumbers this year. I’ve never grown them before, and I had no idea what kind of yields, I’d get, so I put 3 “tomato” cages in a 3’x6′ bed and planted 2 cucumber plants (var: Little Leaf from Johnny’s) on each side of the square cages. Not all 24 plants came up, but I’d guess 15 or so did.

We are now harvesting, on average, a quart of pickle-sized cucumbers a day. I only harvest every 2-3 days, so I’m usually getting at least 2 quarts every time I pick. We eat very few cukes fresh, so we’ve been making a LOT of pickles. Here are a few we’ve liked:

  • Half-sours – probably our favorite, definitely our “go-to” pickle. Just cukes, garlic, bay, peppercorns, and dill, covered with salt brine and fermented.
  • Hungarian summer pickles – not bad, once we added some garlic, but they often taste…fizzy. Literally like there’s carbonation inside the pickles.
  • Vinegar garlic dills – first batch had a little too much vinegar and haven’t tasted the second batch yet, but these are closest to Scott’s favorite store-bought pickles
  • Mustard/horseradish dills – FABULOUS. Maybe my new favorite pickle…my sweetie hasn’t tried them yet and I hope he hates them. 🙂

Weirdo pickles

The following were Pickles of Desperation, made when we just couldn’t think of what else to make. We actually haven’t tried most of these yet…I’ll let you know if they’re any good.

  • Curry pickles – these were actually quite good. Fermented in salt brine, with a tablespoon of curry powder and a teaspoon each of whole corriander, cumin, and black pepper
  • “Kitchen sink” pickles – faced with too much vinegar brine and too many jars with spices already in them and not enough cucumbers, we frantically searched the kitchen for anything we could pickle. The result? A pint of pickled kohlrabi, and two mixed pints of kohlrabi, cabbage, carrots, and apples. We plan to serve it with pork.
  • “Thanksgiving” pickles – fermented with garlic, sage, rosemary, and chives.
  • Thai basil-chili pickles – lots of Thai basil, 2 chili peppers, and garlic

Lessons learned

  • Cherry tree leaves work better than grape leaves for keeping pickles crunchy
  • We like them sized 2-3″ best. At 4″, they can’t keep their crunch, and larger than that, you really have to cut them into “coins.” (I do flavor experiments with these bigger pickles. If the flavor works out, we’ll do it again with tiny premium cukes.)
  • If fermented pickles don’t taste fabulous after 3-4 days, just leave them out of the fridge another couple days. The flavors will continue to develop a *lot*.
  • Wear sturdy gloves when picking cucumbers!
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10 Comments

  1. MK said,

    August 15, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I just got Linda Ziedrich’s Joy of Pickling and it is a lovely book. Can’t wait to try her pasteurization method for canning them. I made her Really Quick Fresh Brined Dill Pickle recipe and it was fantastic!

  2. theslowcook said,

    August 15, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Emily, I think three or four cucumber plants (pickling variety) are probably plenty for the average family. We’ve been inundated with cucumbers with just a half-dozen plants, so I can’t imagine the quantities you are going to be harvesting. That’s a lot of pickles. Our favorites are also the deli-style fermented dills, Hungarian (sun) pickles and a spicy “Cajun” dill. All of these are lacto-fermented. I am still looking for the perfect vinegar brine pickle for canning. We do love our bread and butter pickles, thick slices that are soaked a day ahead with pickling lime for extra crunch.

  3. Sara said,

    August 16, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Some of my homemade brined cucumber pickles were fizzy too! I’m so glad that you mentioned it, because I thought that was pretty strange, and wondered if my mind was playing tricks on me.

  4. tom said,

    August 17, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I really like your blog.

    Pickles!

    My cuke plants mostly froze this spring, a few are finally blooming. Sweet/sour bread & butter pickles are my favorite…very versatile, perfect with grilled cheese, samosas/empandas, roast pork, etc, etc. I need to have a batch or two put away every summer. First B&B’s, then garlics dills, then a half gallon of refrig pickles, finally really sour tarragon cornichons.

    cheers

  5. aimee said,

    August 17, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Would you mind terribly posting a little bit more detailed instructions on making fermented pickles? How strong a salt solution? No boiling? Really?

  6. Sara said,

    August 18, 2009 at 7:14 am

    My favorite pickling tip came from a brochure that my mother picked up in the 1960’s. You can use a plastic bag, partially filled with brine, instead of a rigid weight on top of the fermenting pickles. It conforms to the shape of the surface very well, eliminating the growth of mold. It also lets me use a cheap jar that narrows a bit at the top, instead of an expensive pickle crock. I double bag.

  7. August 25, 2009 at 5:57 am

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  8. mlle noëlle said,

    August 28, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for all the great pickle ideas, I can’t wait to hear how the “weirdo pickles” come out! I have been a little intimidated about doing pickles at home, partly because of my inexperience and partly because I have a TINY kitchen. But reading this encourages me to take the plunge!

  9. May 26, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Pickles! Thank you for the tips! more power to your blog


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