Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kosher Dill Pickles

When I left New York City in my early 20s, it was difficult to find Jewish food outside of major cities. As mentioned recently, you couldn't even find a decent bagel in Portland, Maine. So, good kosher-style brine pickles were definitely not in the picture. Now, you can find brands such as BaTampte and Bubbies in Whole Foods and other stores around the country.

Back then, my wife found a recipe for brine pickles in the New York Times, and I still use it. I just made my best batch ever. The key, in my opinion, is to use fairly small cucumbers, and have all the cukes in the batch be of a similar size. They should be close to cylinder shape and not teardrop shaped. I think this batch is so good because I found some really small cukes at the farmer's market.

My pickles with a couple of Nathan's Famous

Kosher Dill Pickles

24-30 small/medium pickling cukes (more if they're really small)
4 cloves garlic, slightly crushed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 dried hot peppers (I use Szechuan peppers!)
3 bay leaves
12 sprigs fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried dill plus 1 teaspoon dill seeds
2 quarts water
1/3 cup kosher salt

Dissolve salt in water (you can heat the water first to help the salt dissolve, but then let it cool).

Put spices in bottom of a crock (I use an earthen crock, but I assume some other kind of ceramic container would do. Not sure if it matters, but I would avoid metal; I'd use plastic before that.

Cover spices with cukes.

Pour salted water over.

Try to keep air out by. I have a plate whose circumference is just smaller than the crock's, so fits nicely on top of the mixture. I then seal the top with plastic wrap.

Keep in a cool, dark place.

Pickles are generally done to a hearty half-sour in 7 days. The smaller they are, the sourer they'll be. I have not found with this recipe that leaving them longer gets them full sour -- they just start to disintegrate.

When you retrieve the crock, you may see some mold. As carefully as you can, remove it with a spoon or however you can. It should not affect the taste of the pickles. If any mold has touched the pickles you can rinse them off, but be sure to remove all mold that may be in the liquid.

Put the pickles in containers or jars.

Strain the liquid as well as you can and pour over the pickles so they are covered.

Store in the refrigerator. Pickles are usually good for a couple of weeks.