Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kosher Pickles

A lot of people I know have at least one relative who used to make pickles. For me, my grandmother didn't make pickles but her father did and she would take me down to Rivington Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to show me where the pickle makers had their open air stores. Her dad had a store when she was a child. He had pickle barrels out front. When she took me downtown there were still pickle makers on the Lower East Side. I loved the smell of the brine in the wooden barrels.

Kosher Pickles

I like the smaller cukes. Cut off the remains of the stems and flowers. Don’t use any cukes that are soft or discolored. Clean and dry the cukes. Put them aside while you make the brine. I use Iranian yellow vinegar, a little hard to find, but it has less of a bite.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Time: 20 minutes to prepare; 2-5 days to brine

5 lbs, small cukes
8 cups of water
1/4 cup Kosher salt1 cup yellow vinegar
4 cloves garlic, peeled, thinly sliced
5 bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns
10 whole mustard seeds1/4 teaspoon of pepper flakes
3 sprigs of fresh dill

In a pot, add together the water, vinegar, and salt. Bring the water to a simmer. Stir, to help the salt dissolve. The brine has to be hot enough to dissolve the salt, but don't let it boil. Stick a finger into the brine. Taste and adjust the flavor. Add more salt and vinegar as you like. If the brine is too salty or too vinegary, then add more water. Get the brine to taste the way you like it, because the way the brine tastes is the way the pickles will taste.

Put the spices into the bottom of a gallon glass jar. Put the cukes into the jar. Pour in the hot brine, being careful to cover the cukes. Save about a cup of brine.

Tasting the brine will give you an idea about the flavor of the pickles, but you won’t really know what the pickles taste like until you make your first batch. The next time you make your pickles you can adjust the flavor by putting in more of less of the flavorings: the salt, vinegar, garlic, and spices.

Now that you’ve put the cucumbers into the brine, you have to wait. How long you wait depends on how you like your pickle. If you like pickles that taste like cucumbers, you can eat them after as little as 2 days. If you want more “pickle” flavor, wait 3-5 days.

While the pickles are curing, keep them on the kitchen counter out of the sun, in the jar, uncovered. If you cover them, they'll go bad. Also, the cukes have to be kept submerged in the brine. If they’re exposed to the air, they will go bad.

The trick is to put a plastic cup in the top of the jar. If you fill the cup with the extra brine, then it’s weight will keep the pickles submerged. Make sure that the size of the cup is smaller than the opening of the jar, so the pickles can “breathe”.

Put brine in the cup, so as the water evaporates, you can add brine from the cup to keep the pickles covered.

Once the pickles are how you like them, put a top on the jar. At this point you'll probably want to transfer the pickles into smaller jars; make sure the pickles are covered and that each jar has an equal amount of the pickling spices.

Refrigerate the jars. The pickles will keep for several weeks, but since there aren't any preservatives, they won’t last as long as store-bought pickles.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes. Cooking Time: 3 minutes. Waiting Time: 2-5 days.

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