There’s a trope that exists out there of the very sad, pathetic refrigerator. We know you can picture this in your head too. The scene starts in the dark, and the door opens, and the camera is inside the refrigerator pointing out towards the frustrated protagonist. As they’re rummaging through the refrigerator they shake a carton of milk, sniff some old Chinese food leftovers, and as they swing the door shut you see a lonely jar of pickles come hurling towards the camera in the door. As fanatics about flavor we can assure you that those are most definitely not our pickles. In our kitchen, happy, zesty, vibrant pickles are the star of our refrigerator!
For our crunchy pickle recipe, Jeff started out with 10 cucumbers of a similar-ish size. The emphasis on size in this instance is so that the fermenting process can occur evenly throughout the pickles but also so that the cucumbers can fit nicely inside your jar together (so smaller might be better in terms of making the most of your space). Deciding to experiment with flavor after the Zickle recipe he went with a mix of some miscellaneous spices we offer, but if you’d rather get a pre-made mix we offer a great basic Pickling Spice Mix. While the spices you are free to experiment with, by far the most important part of making a great and successful pickle is using Purified or Spring water and apple cider vinegar with the mother. For most of us that live in a town or city our tap water likely contains traces of chlorine or other purifying ingredients that hinders the fermentation process. If you’re lucky enough to have great well water, that’s one less thing on your shopping list. For the apple cider vinegar Jeff spoke very highly of a health food brand called Bragg known for their organic apple cider vinegar. Using a high quality vinegar (with the mother) will ensure you get the most in terms of health benefits.
What’s so great about apple cider vinegar? And what is this “mother” thing? The mother of apple cider vinegar actually refers to a cluster of healthy bacteria (probiotics) and enzymes that help ferment the vinegar. While it sounds strange, this murky and cloudy inclusion in the vinegar is actually the key for supercharging your digestive and intestinal health as we head into a somewhat richer and heartier winter diet. “ACV” as it is frequently referred to has been the answer for all sorts of ailments and problems for several millennia (Hippocrates liberally prescribed apple cider vinegar mixed with honey as a medicine for everything, from head injuries to fractured limbs). Even though they are used interchangeably, there is a difference between pickling and fermenting, and these pickles are actually fermented in the apple cider vinegar as pickling involves the use of heat in order to kill bacteria. Food that is found on a grocery store shelf (not refrigerated) that is pickled typically contains added sugar and has very little nutritional value- when you kill all the bacteria, you kill all the good stuff too. As a result of this it’s important to make sure you really fully submerge your fruits and veggies when you ferment them, because it’s not uncommon to get a little funky growth if there’s any cucumbers poking their head out of the pool. Jeff recommends using a ramekin or other small dish to help weigh down the cucumbers while they are fermenting. Once you check that they’re satisfactorily tangy and still crunchy, move the jar to the refrigerator so the fermentation is slowed/halted.
Pickles are great as a garnish, a sandwich ingredient, or thrown into a salad. Snacking on a pickle or two makes a great low calorie snack, but we don’t recommend digging into the whole jar as a meal because the brining process makes them high in sodium.
- Divide the ingredients up between the 2 jars. Make sure there is equal portions of cucumbers, garlic, peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaves and dill weed.
- Make the brine. Combine 6 cups water, salt, and vinegar and mix well.
- Pour liquid into jars, making sure the cucumbers are submerged under liquid. You may want to weigh the cucumbers down with something, like a ramekin. They will mold if they are not submerged under the brine. Seal with a lid and let sit for 4-5 days.
- After 4-5 days, check to see if they are finished. The brine will be cloudy, and the pickles will be yellowish.