June 21, 2010


The summer that I was pregnant with Briton, I went preserving crazy. I made strawberry jam and mint jelly and rose jelly and crazy I don't even remember what went in there chutney. I dried and bottled tomatoes and froze corn. And I made pickles. Actually, I should say I tried to make pickles. After reading through my preserving book I took myself down to the farmers market to stock up on pickling cucumbers. While I was there I chatted with the sweet little old ladies that ran the OSU Extension Office stand about the ins and outs of pickle making and went home, I thought, totally prepared. And to be honest, I'm not sure where things went wrong. They looked like pickles, they smelled like pickles, but they tasted, blah. Just really, really, blah. No crunch, no bite, no taste. It sucked.

So I've never gone down the pickle route again. Until I was poking around in the garden this weekend and discovered that my cucumber plant had exploded. No really. Last week I went poking through all the vines and leaves of my whole garden looking for signs of something, but didn't find much other than some good looking bok choy. Yesterday I thought I spotted a bean from the window and went out to investigate. I found, not a bean, but TONS of beans. And three enormous cucumbers. And corn! Still to small to eat but still, CORN! Feeling around under the potato plants revealed that the soil is packed with two inch diameter spuds. The carrots are starting to look like carrots. Not that I expected anything else, but still, it was exiting. But back to the cucumbers.

We planted Asian cucumbers this year from seeds bought from the Southern State Seed Exchange. From the descriptions, they were similar to the English variety that we love, but grow better in this hotter climate. I kid you not when I say that last week they were less than two inches long so it was kind of a shock to find them over a foot just seven days later. And while we love cucumbers on sandwiches and in salads, three huge cucumbers seemed a little excessive. Which got me thinking about pickles.

I dug through my big Stocking Up book, weighing a few different recipes (I can't remember which I used last time) read a few others I found in books on my shelf, and ended up winging it a little since none called for such a small amount of cucumbers. This makes, in fact, just one, tightly packed mason jar. Which is just the right amount for us. Or maybe not. Because these turned out great. Crunchy and a little spicy and just right. I'm still a little in awe. I didn't really think it would work. But I can see them disappearing faster than pickles usually do in this house, which has led me to do a little fantasizing about all sorts of things I can pickle. Maybe some of those beans. Or watermelon rind which I've never had but always wanted to try. Or Jerusalem artichokes. Can you pickle Jerusalem artichokes? Because I've got a bunch of them growing in the flower garden.

Anyway, if you have a spare pound or so of cucumbers hanging around the house, give it a whirl.

Fresh Packed Dill Pickles
Adapted from Stocking Up

1000 g of water
50 g of kosher salt
1 1/4 pounds of cucumbers, freshly picked and cut in spears
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 T kosher salt
1 tsp pickling spices
1 T mustard seed
1 small bunch of fresh dill

Make a brine out of the first two ingredients and soak the cucumber spears in it over night in the fridge. The next morning drain the cucumbers and pack them tightly into a sterilized, hot jar with the mustard seeds and the bunch of dill. In a saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, salt and pickling spices to a boil and pour into the jar until it's almost full. Cap with a lid and set it in the fridge to chill. Since these aren't processed, you have to keep them in the fridge. But I would guess that you can put the jar in a pot of boiling water and process for 15 minutes or so. That's part of the next adventure. Along with the beans and the artichokes.

Oh yeah, and happy solstice everyone. Nothing says the first day of summer like pickles, right?