When the midnight hour strikes, many people are counting sheep or are deep in an REM state of slumber. Myself? A perennial insomniac, I prefer to count peppercorns, elbows deep in cucumbers and vinegar. Yes. I make pickles, and many times it is after midnight.
Pickles after midnight are great for a variety of reasons. One, they are incredulously easy to make. Two, they give you and your fridge something to look forward to in a week. And third, in the time usually spent Facebook stalking or pinning food porn to Pinterest, you will have an entire jar of cucumbers pickling, ready to go.
Pickles were always a big part of my life. I distinctly remember going on outings to Jewish delis with my mother and older sister when I was young. Splitting corned beef sandwiches on rye, we would slather Dijon mustard on each bite, my feet wiggling in excitement under the table from the deliciousness of it all. Our arrival was heralded with a plate of perfectly crunchy pickles which we all agreed was the highlight of our visit. During the next decade or so, it was the pickle jar I would reach for instead of a cookie jar since my mother never baked. This coincidentally worked out well with my penchant for salt. Years later, in college, I would introduce my then-boyfriend-now Husband to the joys of pickles and he too joined my religion.
A friend of mine in San Francisco inspired me to make pickles. This is his recipe in which I am forever grateful that he shared it with me. The dried chili peppers were from a recent harvest of the Husband’s. I highly recommend peppers for the novice grower (like us) since they are easy, fun and are a high yielding plant.
When pickling, you can be somewhat liberal with the seasonings and play around with the recipe, adding more garlic or less chili peppers, according to your taste preference. I also like to alternate between using pickling cucumbers or Persian cucumbers depending on my mood and what I can find organic in the store.
12-14 pickling or Persian cucumbers
2 cups water
1 3/4 cups white vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
One packet “pickling spice” (sold in local grocery stores)
2 Tbsp kosher salt (NOT iodized which will turn the liquid a strange unappetizing color and affect the taste)
3-4 bay leaves
6-8 cloves of garlic cut in half
2 cups fresh dill
Whole dried chili peppers
2 tsp whole black pepper
Heat water and vinegar on medium heat. Add salt and sugar and stir gently so that they dissolve. Just before it starts boiling, turn off heat. In a glass airtight jar, add other ingredients, including the cucumbers. Pour hot liquid mix into the jar so that the ingredients are fully submerged. Place in fridge for 7-8 days.