How To: Make Pickles and Impress People

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Pickles are delicious. This we know. But really good pickles can be expensive, and a quick internet search for “pickle recipes” will yield all kinds of scary results that talk about brining, and fermentation, and leaving your pickles in a dark place for three weeks. In fact, a couple years ago I tried to make pickles the “proper” way. Unfortunately, my jars were not large enough, and although I managed to squeeze my raw cucumbers in, they wouldn’t come back out after a week when they were all swollen with brine. Long story short: those pickles sat, uneaten, in The Boy’s fridge for months until someone (his mom) threw them out.

But I’m here to save you from this kind of tragedy! All the work for this pickle recipe can be done in under an hour, they’re ready to eat as soon as they’re cool, and they taste like the best, most delicious pickles you’ve ever had. And people will think that this is the coolest thing in the world, and that you are the most amazing chef ever.

Quick Spicy Pickles

Cucumbers (the best kind to use are Kirby, but these can be hard to find. Use a smaller variety, like Persian, as an alternative, definitely not the giant ones you slice for salad)

White vinegar

Black peppercorns

Fresh dill

Habanero chiles (optional)

Fresh garlic, peeled but not chopped (optional)

Kosher salt

1) Wash your cucumbers thoroughly. Sometimes I wipe them down with a little vinegar to make sure all the bacteria is gone, but mostly I’m too lazy for this, and I haven’t run into any problems yet. Depending on the size of your jars and cucumbers, you can either slice these into spears or keep them whole. My jars are pretty narrow, so I usually slice my cucumbers in half vertically. When I’m working with giant summer Kirbys, I’ll do another slice to quarter them into spears.

2) Pack your cucumber slices into jars. Don’t pack them so tightly that you can’t get them out, and bear in mind that they will swell a little when you add the liquid. In each jar, add a sprig or two of dill, four or five garlic cloves (more if you’re crazy, like me), and a habanero. Habaneros make a lot of people nervous, but I assure you that adding just one gives this recipe only the slightest touch of spice. Even so, I leave both the chiles and the garlic out when I make these for my mom (who is a wimp).

3) Pour your vinegar and water into a large stock pot. Your vinegar to water ratio is 3:1, so for one quart size jar you’ll want about three cups of vinegar and one cup of water. For a pound of cucumbers you’re probably looking at at least four jars, so that’s twelve cups of vinegar and four cups of water. Of course, you can always play it safe and make more. But don’t worry if you run out before your jars are filled, you totally have time to boil some more. I’ve settled on these proportions after a lot of trial and error, but be forewarned that I like my pickles really salty and briney.  Add your salt (ok this is my like 100th update on the salt proportions… 1/8 cup of salt for every gallon of water. I really should just start measuring things) and black peppercorns (about an quarter cup per gallon liquid). Bring to a boil.

4) As soon as your vinegar solution is boiling, turn off the heat. Now, very carefully, pour the hot vinegar into each jar, over the cucumbers. Ideally they should just cover the cucumbers, but sometimes mine poke out a little and everything is still ok. Fill all of your jars, and then set them aside to cool a little bit before you put the lids on. Once they’re close to room temperature, add the lids and put these guys in the fridge. As soon as they’re cold you can eat them (actually, you can eat them right away, but hot pickles are kind of gross), but the flavors will deepen over time.

These make fantastic gifts, because they’re a snap to make in large quantities and, as I said, people will be super impressed.

PS: Like my pig napkin rings? They were a present from my mom, who is the best.

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