It’s common knowledge that I have a salty tooth rather than a sweet tooth. When the weather does what it has been doing lately (making us all do our best Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego impersonations) I can’t think of a single thing I find more refreshing than an icy-cold, salty, crunchy pickle. Oh yes. You can keep your popsicles* and those icy squeezy pop things whose name currently escapes me. I’m on deck with the pickles.
*I will, however, fight you for fudgesicles. That’s just the way it is.
It’s not just me, it’s my whole family: mother, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, grandparents, kids, husband… I married a man who loves pickles so much he eats the pickles and then drinks the juice from the jar. In fact, in an attempt to show my husband just how much she loved him, my mom made a special pickle juice drink for him at our wedding. And he drank it*. Happily.
*He drinks pickle juice regularly in hot weather. He claims it is “Gatorade for people who don’t like sweets.” I love him.
I grew up eating my Grandma’s homemade dill pickles like the supply was endless and moved on to canning my own pickles as soon as I had a kitchen of my own. My little sister, Jessamine, and I compare our homemade pickles from year to year the way some people compare wine vintages. But there is one pickle that stands head-and-shoulders (were pickles to *have* heads and shoulders) above all others. I’m talking about the pickles you see here.
These are homemade refrigerated deli pickles, also known as Lithuanian half-sours, also known (in the commercial equivalent) as Claussen dill kosher pickles, also known as the best pickles ever known to mankind.
Here’s the thing. While I do love my other homemade pickles dearly (otherwise why would I continue canning ninety-something quarts year after year after year), these are by far my all-time favourites. CRUNCH. That’s what you hear when you bite these. There is no flop, no squish, no slime. These things almost bite back.
Claussens were long the benchmark for which I aimed in pickle making. No matter what, a canned pickle is not going to end up like that lovely Claussen: crunchy to the point of making noise when you bite it, cold, and seriously garlicky. Canned, shelf-stable pickles can be chilled, maintain some crunch and be as garlicky as you want them to be, but they are never, ever going to be the same thing because of science. When you heat process a jar of pickles you are, in actuality, cooking it and a cooked pickle just plain can’t be as crunchy as an un-cooked one.
Here’s where we get into bonus happy territory. You don’t have to cook anything to make these pickles; not one single thing. The brine is stirred together, the cucumbers are rinsed, trimmed and stuffed into a jar with garlic cloves and spices. Please, please, please give these a go even if you have never made a pickle before. There is nothing scary or intimidating here. (Do you hear me Saint Tigerlily? No spectre of THE BOTCH!) Wash, slice, stuff, stir, pour, sit, wait. Okay wait. Yes. That last bit is hard. The waiting is hard. On the plus side, the wait is only two to four days which is significantly less than the six week wait of the canned pickles. Besides, as I said, there is the crunch factor.
Get on the homemade pickle train, my friends, there’s plenty of room for all of us and if you don’t know what to do with the leftover brine, just pass it to my husband. He’ll “dispose” of it for you. Crrrrrrrrrrunch!
- 35 to 40 small to medium pickling cucumbers
- 1 gallon cold water
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons mixed pickling spices
- ⅔ c. canning or kosher salt (Do NOT use iodized salt!)
- 4 cloves garlic or more, to taste
- 4 fresh dill heads ~or~ 4 tablespoons dried dill seed (not weed!)
- Wash cucumbers but do not scrub them.
- Trim ⅛-inch from the blossom end of each cucumber and slice in half lengthwise or into quarters, depending on how large your cucumbers are and how big you want them to be when they're done.
- In a gallon jar (or large, wide-mouth, food-safe container) layer the dill heads or seed, garlic cloves and sliced cucumbers.
- In a separate pitcher or bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients until the salt is dissolved.
- Pour the brine over the cucumbers, taking care to make sure all of them are fully submerged. If needed, place a plate or mug or other non-reactive heavy item on the cucumbers to weigh them down and keep them under the brine!
- Cover lightly with a lid just perched on top or secure a piece of cheesecloth over the jar with a rubber band to keep fruit flies away.
- Leave out of direct sunlight on the counter for two to four days*, or until the cucumbers taste like pickles throughout.
- Fix your lid onto your jar or container and chill. These can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months provided you keep them covered with brine.