Thursday, August 29, 2013
I find I'm clinging to these last days of summer. Soon, I know I'll be immersing myself in fall's bounty and loving every bite. But until I start devouring apples and squash, I still have summer produce on my mind.
Remember those pickling cucumbers I picked up at the Ballard Market earlier this month? I had plans for them when I stashed a couple pounds in my bag.
Over the past year, I’ve caught the fermenting bug and now jars of kombucha sitting on top of my fridge are a normal sight, kimchi and sauerkraut are common topics and I’m finally having some success in making yogurt.
Pickles are another wonderful fermented treat. During the summer months, pickling cucumbers start showing up at the markets. They tend to be smaller and firmer than regular slicing cucumbers and may have a rather spiny skin. After washing and slicing them, they are immersed in salty water to begin fermenting. No vinegar is used. Flavors can be added, and for these pickles I layered in coriander seeds, garlic, fresh dill and a handful of dried red chiles. I began my batch of pickles in Seattle and then brought the jar along with me to the Methow Valley and let them ferment for a few days.
Some fermenting variables are the temperature of your kitchen, the amount of salt used and the size of your cucumbers, as smaller slices will ferment faster. My cabin kitchen is very warm these days, so we began crunching away soon.
These pickles have pizzaz! The fresh dill and coriander seeds lend an herbal note, while the garlic and chiles bring a spicy punch. Perfect to nibble on at a barbecue or for a lazy afternoon snack, they taste of summer and I’m savoring every last bite.
Fills ½ gallon jar
2 pounds pickling cucumbers, ideally small to medium in size
6 tablespoons kosher salt
2 cups boiling water
10 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
10 small dried red chiles
1 large bunch fresh dill
Wash the cucumbers well and slice them in half lengthwise, or to the size you prefer. In a bowl, stir together the kosher salt and boiling water until the salt dissolves. In a clean, sterile ½ gallon or similar sized crock, layer the sliced cucumbers, garlic cloves, coriander seeds, chiles and sprigs of dill. You may have to push the cucumbers down to make them all fit. Pour the salt water over. Push the cucumbers down so they are completely submerged. I usually move them around until they are a bit wedged down and stay covered by the water. If using a crock, you can also weigh the cucumbers down with a small plate topped with cans.
Cover the jar with cheesecloth and let it sit at room temperature for 48 hours. If it is quite warm in your kitchen, you can begin tasting after 24 hours to see if they are to your liking. The warmer the temperature, the faster they will ferment so it may take a few days or up to a week. Once you like the flavor and texture of the pickles, begin eating them and store the covered jar in the fridge for up to one month (the cold air slows down the fermentation).