The following is a guest blog from my dad Dan in Kansas City. This project and the pickle recipe were too good not to share.
Jennie and I had talked about making a batch of pickles now that summer is nearing the end and the fresh, home- grown cucumbers won’t be available for long. Daughter-in-law Lisa took an interest and I was more than happy to teach her my way of pickling.
There are as many pickle varieties as Baskin and Robbins has ice creams, probably more. My pickle is a very specific one known as a half-sour. This is a no-cook dill pickle that does not include vinegar. If you’ve ever enjoyed the free pickles on the table at Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue in New York, you know what they are. They’re a bright green in color, fresh and crisp, with accents of garlic. And they are quite addictive, in my opinion.
I bought a carton of Ball canning jars a few years ago and brought them up from the basement. They had been sitting empty since we finished the last batch of pickles. I rinsed them out and then washed them in the dishwasher. Jennie thought they needed a second washing (no surprise) so after two cycles through the dishwasher, the jars were ready to go.
Lisa, Jeff, Jennie and I set out for the farmer’s market in old downtown Overland Park this morning and it was a lovely day, unseasonably cool and arid for this time of year. The OP farmer’s market is a happening place on a Saturday morning and we saw several people we knew. After checking out the more than 70 vendors, we found the one with the best cucumbers. My pickles require the Kirby variety of a small to medium size. After telling her how many cukes we needed, the owner let Jeff and me go back to their truck and hand pick the ones we wanted. At $3 a container, we spent $21 for the seven containers that yielded 14 jars of pickles. The fresh dill came from another vendor at $2 for a large bunch.
Jennie wanted to shop the market for tomatoes and peaches and I wandered off to listen to the live music of Half Price Buddha, a local band hired to perform for the shoppers. After a while, she pulled me away from the concert to walk a block to Penzeys Spices where we bought our mustard seeds and coriander.
We got home and the work began. Lisa washed the cukes with a vegetable brush and we placed the lot in a clean sink filled with ice water. Soaking the cucumbers in ice water for a couple of hours increases their crispiness. We broke for lunch and returned to finish the job.
Jeff and Lisa prepared the fresh garlic, breaking the clusters into individual cloves and peeling their skin. At the same time, I prepared the brining solution on the stove using water and kosher salt. It is important to heat the water to dissolve the salt, but not to boiling point. Jennie rinsed the fresh dill and prepared it to go into the jars while Jeff took the dangerous job of seeding and cutting the fresh jalapeno peppers. Don’t rub your eye after cutting jalapenos or you’ll be shedding some real tears!
Lisa placed the spices and seasonings in the bottom of each jar and we all helped fill the jars with the ice-cold cucumbers. I then filled each jar with the warm brining solution, leaving about a half inch of air at the top. We placed the lids tightly on the jars and stored them where they will sit at room temperature in a dark place for two or three days. At this point, expect to see bubbles forming, a sign that the fermentation process has begun. Food scientists call it lacto-fermentation and it is essential to making half sours. Leave the pickles alone for another 48 hours and then move the jars to the refrigerator for about two weeks. They’ll be ready for eating and will keep in the fridge for a few months.
Bet you can’t eat just one!
The following recipe is for a small batch of pickles but we doubled it.
Dan’s New York Deli Pickles
Three dozen fresh Kirby cucumbers, 3-4” or so
8 cups water
½ cup kosher salt
8-10 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
12-16 sprigs fresh dill
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
16 whole peppercorns
6 bay leaves
Red Pepper Flakes
1. Clean jars.
2. Soak Kirby cucumbers in ice water for a couple of hours.
3. Put dill, peeled garlic cloves and other seasonings in bottom of clean jars.
4. Prepare brining solution with water and kosher salt. Warm on stove to dissolve salt but don’t boil.
5. Pack jars with cold cucumbers and pour in salt water, leaving ½ inch of air at top.
6. Place jars in a dark place at room temperature to ferment for about three days. Look for bubbles then leave for another 48 hours. Move to the refrigerator for two weeks.
7. They’re ready to eat! Will keep in refrigerator for a few months.