Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Quick Dill-Horseradish Pickles (100% Artisan-Free!)

Gentle reader, in today’s gentrified hipster Brooklyn it is impossible to swing a dead cat without hitting a jar of “artisanal” pickles with some precious hand-designed-label and obscure seasonings. (Also, most of the gentrified hipsters are big on animal rights, so you should probably just avoid swinging dead cats in general.) But I recently found myself with a couple of English cucumbers and a bunch of fresh dill, all of which were about to turn brown and mushy—so, at the risk of perpetuating a stereotype, I made my own little batch of pickles. Let the record show, though, that they were by no means artisanal, whatever that even means.

I sliced the cucumbers into coins, although you could also do spears, or lengthwise halves if you use a Kirby cucumber, which is shorter. (I don’t really recommend pickling with whatever those regular ’Merickan cucumbers are called, because the peel is very waxy and the flesh is watery/porous, so it will break down in the brine and get mushy.) You could also use a different veg altogether, like cauliflower florets, zucchini spears, carrot sticks, mushrooms, radishes—the possibilities are pretty much endless.

I used my mom’s very easy and quick recipe/method for the brine… Set a saucepan over a high flame and bring to a boil:

  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (another clear vinegar could also be used, such as white wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
You want the sugar and salt to dissolve; then you can remove the pan from the heat and add spices such as, but not limited to:
Tip: Cut coin-shaped, these pickles are great in a Cuban sandwich variation, either hot-pressed or cold—with roast pork or turkey slices, cheese, mustard, mayo, red onion, what have you.
  • Coriander seeds
  • Black peppercorns
  • Fennel seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Garlic cloves or powder
  • (I also added a spoonful of prepared horseradish, although my mom did not call for it, because she is not the boss of me, okay?)

When the liquid is just about cooled, pack some dill fronds and your cucumber or alternate raw veggie into a jar or other sealable container, then pour the liquid over them. The cukes will absorb the flavor quite quickly; mine took less than an hour to have a real kick to them. They get more piquant (and softer) the longer they steep in the brine, so if you like a crunchy and not-too-spicy pickle, you might want to pour out a bit of the brine and replace it with water after a day or so.

But wait, don’t throw out that brine! You can totally reuse it for another batch of pickles, whether of the same veggie varietal you initially used or a different one. (You can also reuse a jar of store-bought pickle juice once you’ve eaten all the pickles, by adding new veggies. Or you can use it in dirty martinis in lieu of olive juice. That’s between you and your God.)

Jars of homemade pickles also make very nice holiday or hostess gifts, so you could multiply the quantity of brine and put several batches of pickles in mason jars with cute hand-written labels ... although if you ask me, that sounds downright artisanal.

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