Cucumbers are starting to come in and since I have a bit of reputation for pickling everything in sight, I’ve already started fielding requests for my favorite cucumber preserving recipes. I thought I’d go ahead and put all my favorites into one post, so from here on out, I can just send this link in response to “What are your favorite cucumber pickle recipes?”
My personal absolute favorite cucumber pickle recipe is Bread & Butter. I posted it a few years ago, but when I went to send the link to a friend last week, I realized I haven’t made bread & butter pickles that way in years. Clearly an update is in order.
Too hot to can? Then make freezer pickles. Frozen pickles? Yes! You can pop the jar into the freezer (just leave a little extra head space) and no canner is required. This recipe is perfect for when you’re just about done with cucumbers, but they’re not quite done with you. I’m not at all sure where the recipe I use comes from originally – I got it in a thick packet of recipes at a food preserving class I took eons ago (pre-14 year old Edie) up at Monticello and there is no mention of it’s origin.
I probably get asked the most about dill cucumber pickles. The truth is, I rarely make them because as watery summer vegetables, cucumbers do not lend themselves to staying crisp during the canning process. They are hands down, the hardest pickle to make. Your best bet is to either make quick pickles or ferment them. When I have managed to can a decent batch of cucumber dill pickles, I’ve used a packaged mix (Ball or Mrs Wages) and cut the processing time to 5 minutes after taking the time to sterilize my jars (10 minutes in a hot water bath). I’ve also discovered that dill chips turn out way better than spears, so I break out the mandolin and those are the dill pickles that line my pantry shelves in the winter months.
Which leads us to talk about fermenting. I had a few unsuccessful attempts at this, but after sitting through Sandor Katz’s talk at the Heritage Harvest Festival up at Monticello last year, I walked away with some information that inspired me to try again. And this time I was far more successful. What made a difference? Learning that the horseradish leaves in my garden could be used for tannins (to help keep crispness) in lieu of grape, cherry or oak leaves. I also realized I’d been letting my cucumbers sit for too long, that they didn’t need to sit for two weeks, that in the warmth of summer, they would probably be ready to eat in about 4 or 5 days. I can’t tell you what a difference those two seemingly little things made! The recipe I’m including is partially adapted from Katz’s books Wild Fermentation, The Art of Fermentation as well as Amanda Feifer’s wonderful Ferment Your Vegetables.
Before I leave you with a slew of recipes, a few notes on preserving cucumbers. The blossom end of a cucumber has an enzyme that can contribute to limp pickles, so always remove the ends. It is often recommended you pickling cucumbers (aka Kirby) for pickling, but I’ll pretty much pickle anything. Just make sure they are still fresh and crisp. As with any preserving, I always recommend starting with small batches, as it’s far easier to figure out what you’re doing when it’s smaller amounts. And if something doesn’t turn out or it turns out, that particular preserve is not for you, then you haven’t wasted a whole lot of time or resources on it.
And now, the recipes:
Bread & Butter Pickles
(Adapted from ideals Family Garden Cookbook)
2.5 lbs cucumbers
1-2 white onions
1/4 cup salt
Wash but do not pare cucumbers. Slice the onions and cucumbers paper-thin (this can be done on a mandolin). Mix with the salt and bury in a quart (or more) or cracked ice. Cover with a weighted lid and let stand 3 hours, then drain thoroughly.
Make a syrup of the following:
2 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
Pour over the sliced, drained pickles. Place over low heat and stir occasionally, using wooden spoon. Bring mixture to scalding, but do not boil. Pack into jars, remove air bubbles and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Frozen Pickled Cucumber Salad
Place in bowl:
4 cups unpeeled cucumbers, sliced
2 cups onions, sliced
2 tablespoons cold water
4 scant teaspoons salt
Let sit 2 hours. Drain. Put in bowl and toss with:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon (or more!) dill
Let sit until all sugar is dissolved, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Put in containers (plastic, jars) with ample head space and freeze.
Quick garlic dill spears: Go here.
Fermented Garlic Dill Cucumber Pickles:
Always use bottled water or tap water that’s been boiled and allowed to cool for several hours when making a brine. I’ve included instructions for a saltier brine as well as a less salty. Feel free to experiment to see which one you prefer!
Brine: 1 tablespoon salt to 2 cups filtered water for lower salinity
2 tablespoons salt to 2 cups filtered water for higher salinity
1 pound cucumbers (preferably Kirby, aka, pickling cukes)
Wash the cukes and soak in ice water for 30 minutes. (This helps them stay firm.). Remove the blossom end and slice into spears or rounds. In large jar or crock, place 1-2 bulbs of garlic, peeled, 3-4 heads of flowering dill or 1-2 tablespoons dried dill, 1 pinch peppercorns, 1 tablespoon mustard seeds and a handful of tannins (grape leaves, black tea bag, horseradish leaves, oak leaves, cherry leaves) along with cucumbers. Pour brine over cucumbers, ensuring all are submerged in liquid (You may need to use a small plate or weight), then cover jar with a cloth to keep out dust and flies. Store in a cool place and begin checking for flavor after 3 days. If mold forms, skim it off, but as long as the cucumbers are submerged, they should be fine. When the pickles reach your desired flavor, move the jar to the fridge with a lid and enjoy within a few weeks.
If there’s a recipe you like you’d like to share, leave it in the comments!