I love pickles. Not the kind that you have to carefully process in jars that hold forever in dark pantries. I love quick pickles that only require refrigeration. You simply make an infused brine with vinegar, salt, aromatics — plus I like a little sweetness to my quick pickles so I always add sugar. You simply heat and simmer to infuse the liquid and then pour this hot brine over your raw vegetables and refrigerate. The longer it sits the more flavor is absorbed. This time of year farm stands are loaded with Kirby cucumbers — the diminutive member of the family — and the ideal quick pickle. Keep a container in your refrigerator and serve with backyard burgers, hot dogs or sandwiches.
Do Ahead Pickles will keep in refrigerator for a month. (I have perfectly good Vietnamese Pickled Carrots and Daikon in my refrigerator for more months than I can remember.)
4 crushed garlic cloves
1 pound Kirby cucumbers, rinsed well, lightly scrubbed if necessary and refrigerate overnight to crisp
2 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Kosher salt
4 star anise pods
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons dill seed
1 small Thai chili optional
1. Make brine in medium-sized stainless steel pot by combining vinegar, water, sugar, salt, star anise, coriander seeds, bay leaf, peppercorns and dill seed. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Your goal here is to infuse the brine with aromatics. Off heat until cucumbers are ready.
2. Trim cucumber ends and discard. Cut cucumber into half inch thick slices. Place cucumbers in non-reactive bowl like stainless steel or glass.
3. Heat brine until boiling. Pour over cucumbers. Place heavy plate on top to keep cucumbers submerged in liquid. Allow to cool and then place in refrigerator. The longer they sit, the more flavor of the brine infuse cucumbers.
My big bunch of dill weed — dill gone to seed — requires rubbing off seeds from little seed clusters. This process is much easier if you allow stems to dry for a few days. I bought far more Kirby cukes than I needed for pickling so an several occasions I peeled them, cut into long strips, six to a cucumber, and sprinkled with dill seed and sea salt. A simply wonderful light hors d’oeuvres.
Here are the ingredients ready to go. The range of aromatics can vary widely. Essentials are garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns.
Simply trim garlic cloves and crush. Crushing allows garlic’s flavor to readily infuse brine.
Combine everything but cucumbers in pot to infuse flavors. Think of its as making a “pickling stock.”
I experimented with cutting cucumbers lengthwise, but prefer thick slices.
Here a plate – just the right size, fits over the pickles and keeps them submerged in brine.
And the finished pickles, several days later, served as part of a farm stand dinner.
Margin Note from At Home
Before he became an attorney, my father was a pickle packer for a time at Pixie Packers of Yonkers, New York. He would come home with the distinctive fragrance of garlic and traditional pickling spices: cloves, mustard seed, bay leaf and black peppercorns. Though in our culture we tend to have a limited view of pickles as salty or sweet cucumbers, pickling is used to preserve foods throughout the world. Whatever is being pickled is typically added to a hot mixture of vinegar and spices and either cooked a bit and then left to cool or just added to the hot mixture off of the stove; in the latter case, the residual heat and action of the salt and vinegar break down and soften the vegetables. Pickles last for a few weeks stored in their brine in the refrigerator.
At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining features five recipes for things pickled. These include Dilly Beans, Moroccan Carrots, Red Onion (from the Zuni Cafe, Sandwich Pickles, and Vietnamese Pickled Carrots and Daikon.
See the At Home Blog Recipe Index on the blog for more than 80 recipes.
Next week — One the Road: Farm Stands of Mercer County, NJ
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Your Home Entertaining Coach