My husband loves pickles. And by love, I mean he eats them on everything, he eats them with everything, he craves them nightly, he can’t get enough. But in saying that, he is also really picky about his pickles (say that 10 times fast!). They need to have garlic, and most of all they need to be crunchy.
Fast forward to a few years ago. We have always had this dream about being master canners. But to be honest with you the whole canning process seemed a bit daunting. Then, low and behold, my husband came across a fermented pickle recipe. The appeal of this recipe was that it boasted crispy pickles, and it wasn’t “really” canning because the standard step of boiling the jars with the contents in it doesn’t happen in this process. So, I picked up a large amount of pickling cucumbers from the Aberfoyle Farmers Market and large stems of dill and the experiment started.
Our first batch of pickles was incredible. So much so, that my brother-in-law ate almost all of them and then started coming over to our house each year to make massive batch of pickles with my husband. It’s now a family tradition. The pickles we made are called “half-sour” kosher dill pickles.
Now, there is a trick to these pickles to make the fermentation happen, keeping the oxygen away from them. And I will admit that last year, we were unlucky in this. Something happened, and our fermentation was prematurely halted by the presence of mold. Since I have done some research on this, and there are a few things to remember. And make sure you adhere to the salt to water ratio as this is critical in the fermentation process.
1. Keep the pickles out of direct sunlight
2. Weigh down your pickles in the jar so that they are completely submerged
3. Optional: Add a small layer of oil to the top to prevent oxygen from getting to them
And as a special addition to ensure crispy pickles, add a grape leaf to the jar. Apparently the grape leaf will ensure crispiness. We have not tried this in the past, and our pickles are awesome, but I may this year.
Traditional fermented pickles are made in large crocks (which can be found – if you are lucky – at the Aberfoyle Antique market every Sunday) but we use large glass jars with glass lids & plastic or rubber seals. Don’t get the jars with the metal lids. We have found jars at Pier 1, Ikea and Bulk Barn in the past.
There is really nothing daunting about this recipe. Its simple to do, and the results are incredible. Why not give it a try this year.
Crispy Market Fresh Garlic Dill Pickles
Enough Small firm fresh picked cuccumbers to fill the jars – pickling variety from Vandenbroek’s Family Farm
Pure filtered water
Kosher salt or sea salt (without iodine)
Fresh dill – Vandenbroek’s will give you this with your pickle purchase
Black pepper corns
Sliced garlic (lots!)
Optional: red pepper flakes, or hot peppers
1. Scrub cucumbers well, and cut off the flower end, because it will soften the pickle if you don’t. I have heard that you can wash your cucumbers in a top loading washing machine in just cold water too! Also, rinse any herbs you will be using.
2. We like our pickles whole, but you can slice or cut your cucumbers into spears.
3. Put a large amount of garlic in each jar. Then layer in dill & spices Pack the cucumbers into a large food-grade crock or jars leaving at least 1″ of space at the top. Pack the cracks with more fresh dill.
4. Make brine. Mix together salt and water using a 1/4 cup of salt for every 4 cups of water. Mix this well until the brine is clear (the salt has completely dissolved). Pour this over your packed cucumbers.
5. Cover pickles with a lid or cheesecloth making sure that all pickles are below the brine. Let them ferment. This can take any where from 2 to 7 days. You will see small bubbles forming on the surface to let you know that they are fermenting.
6. Determine when they are “done”. We usually start tasting 1 after about 2 to 3 days. When the pickles start tasting sour, and not salty they are finished. But you can continue to let them go for as long as you like.
7. When they have reached the flavour want, pour off about 1″ of the brine and add a splash of white vinegar to round out the flavours. Now store your delicious pickles in the fridge to slow the fermentation process and enjoy!
Visit the Aberfoyle Farmers Market in Aberfoyle, Ontario at 23 Brock Road South, on the rink surface of the Optimist Recreation Centre. Saturdays from the end of May until the end of October, 8am to 1pm.