I absolutely love a great sour dill pickle. I have tried and failed to make them myself many times. Each time I pick a new recipe that looks promising and then somewhere from when the fermentation begins and the pickle is bitten into it looses everything I love in a good pickle… The crunch. If a pickle doesn’t have crunch I don’t see the point. It doesn’t help that I am biased. I have an issue with mushy food. It doesn’t matter what it is. So with all the pessimistic caution I could muster, I set out to make a new recipe…
The question comes down to where to find the recipe that will hit the right flavor profile. I don’t want anything sweet. I want them tangy. So when I discovered The Gefilte Manifesto had a whole thing on pickles I knew if I were going to give it another go I would have to try their recipe. With having tried so many of their recipes with great success I knew I had reason to be slightly more optimistic in this project.
Making pickles is fairly easy but you have to give it time. Simply put pickling cucumbers in a large vessel fill it with brine and your chosen spices and let it sit for at least a week. The real torture is seeing this marvelous bucket of bright green pickles that smell strongly of dill and spices. The key though is you have to give ti time. The fermentation process is what makes a cucumber into a pickle. The good news is once you done waiting you have pickles!
Classic Sour Dill Pickles
- 5 pounds Whole Kirby Cucumbers, rinsed
- ½ gallon Filtered Water
- ½ cup Kosher Salt
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 1 dreid Chili Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Whole Coriander Seeds
- 1 teaspoon Yellow Mustard Seeds
- 1 teaspoon Whole Black Peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon Whole Cloves
- ¼ bunch Fresh Dill, rinsed
- 1 ½ heads Garlic, separated and crushed
(A tip offered in the cookbook is that putting the cucumbers in an ice bath for anywhere from 45 minutes to 5 hours before starting the recipe will help them hold their crunch.)
In a large tub or jar, something that is at least 2 gallons, add the water along with the salt and stir until the salt id dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients. Finally add the cucumbers. (If you don’t have enough liquid to cover the cucumbers make another portion of the water and salt brine, adding enough to cover the pickles well.)
Since this is a fermentation you will want to use something to weigh down the cucumbers. A small plate or whatever you have that can keep the cucumbers below the surface of the water will work fine. The key is to keep all the cucumbers below the surface. Cover your chosen container with cheesecloth and secure with a piece of string. (If you don’t have cheese cloth any thin fabric will do, such as a flour sack towel or even some tea towels.) Now the hard part.. Let them sit for 7 days.
So how do you keep them? I thought canning was the answer. The issue is the traditional canning has the jars of pickles in boiling water for the canning process which heats up the cucumbers too much causing their cellular walls to break down which is what makes them mushy.
The timing of trying this recipe must have been in the stars or something because recently I purchased an immersion circulator called Joule by Chefsteps. This is not just all about sous vide cooking. Not only do they have a great product but they also have a great cooking website that goes well beyond sous vide. It was looking at this website that I came across a whole section on pickles! In it they specifically call out the issue of the temperature and it’s impact on the cucumbers and as a alternative they offered up a low temperature canning process for pickles. This ensures the cucumber stays firm and crunchy! This gave me a little hope. So we set out on making pickles and canning them using a low temperature canning method… The results! Crunchy sour dill pickles in every jar!
At this point you have pickles! If you did this full recipe you have A LOT of pickles! So I was plagued with the question of how to store them. I followed Chefsteps directions:
Set water to 140ºF.
While the water is heating remove the pickles from the brine and fill quart sized jars packing them in as tight as you can without smooshing them. For the sized pickles I had this took 5 quart jars. I then added the dill heads to the jars as well as the garlic (that were in the brine). I strained out the solids from the brine.
In a separate container with a pour spout I added:
- 400 grams Vinegar
- 400 grams Pickle Brine
- 80 grams Granulated Sugar
- 20 grams Kosher Salt
Stir all of it together and pour into the jars of pickles leaving ¾ inch head room. I placed a lid on the jar and then added the ring. I tightened the ring to “fingertip tight”. Once the water was heated I added the jars of pickles and let them cook for 2 ½ hours. Once the cook time was up I carefully removed the jars and set them on a towel on the kitchen counter, leaving them undisturbed till the next morning.
One major difference with low-temp canning was there wasn’t the obvious “pop” when the jars sealed. Since the temperature wasn’t as dramatically different as with traditional water-bath canning the reaction isn’t the same. Just press down on the center of the lid to determine if you have a seal. If there’s any give the jar did not seal.
I put 4 jars into the fridge and one into my pantry. The ones in my fridge have been nice and crisp. I will say they do seem a little too sweet for me so next time I might reduce the amount of sugar in the final “brine” by half. I also needed to make two batches of the vinegar brine to fill all the jars adequately. I have not tried the ones sitting in the pantry yet…
The end result? These pickles are good enough to keep me happily pickling for years to come. I guess now I need to add these cucumbers to what I plant in my garden!