02 October 2010

Pickles! Pickles! Glorious, Crunchy Pickles!

Hey did you know I was going to talk about pickles today? It was a surprise to me, too, but someone requested that I post my raw pack bread and butter pickle recipe, so I am. And I'm posting other ones, too. Hope you guys like them! BTW, I usually buy my raw apple cider vinegar by the gallon because it is cheaper and I use a lot during pickle season.

I purchase Spectrum organic from the expensive co-op down the street and pay only $14. But I couldn't find Spectrum's gallons online. I did find Bragg's and they make good vinegar, too even if I don't trust some of their other products.

For salt, we use pink salt. I purchased a 25 pound bag of Himalayan salt from San Francisco Bath Salt Company earlier this year when they had a sale. If you keep an eye on their website and pounce, you'll find great deals. I managed to get a 25 pound bag of good quality salt for $40, no shipping! And they're having a sale right this minute in fact! No, I don't make any money off of this, but it is a fabulous deal. Everything is food grade quality.

Gabrielle's Often Requested B&B Pickles

5 pounds of pickles (that would be small, warty pickling cucumbers) cut into dimes, thin or thick
2 large yellow onions, cut in half and thinly sliced into half-moons
6 TB good quality salt

Sugar to taste (here it gets tricky because it takes a lot of sugar to preserve these, but I can usually get away with 3 cups of organic cane sugar for the whole thing, or 2 cups cane sugar and a few drops of stevia, but I recommend just using good quality sugar for better taste. You aren't drinking the pickle juice!)
3 cups raw apple cider vinegar
1 cup filtered water
2 TB black mustard seeds

Spice Mix

2 tsp celery seeds
2 TB turmeric, or more if you want
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp good quality curry powder (Frontier is great!)
1/2 tsp cayenne (if you want to, not necessary)

First things first, mix the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar together. So everything dissolves properly, I suggest using 1 cup boiling water in with the sugar and salt. When it all cools to room temperature, then add the vinegar. Otherwise, you kill all of the good stuff in the vinegar. You'll want to taste it at this point. It should be strongly vinegar tasting, very salty, but slightly more sweet than salty. Think to yourself, does this taste sweet enough for me? B&B pickles are sweet, and if you don't have the mix right, then they taste otherwise. Add your spice mix in about 1/3 at a time. People have different tastes, but you want this to be a bit spicier than you'd be comfortable with because you'll otherwise have bland pickles. So take the time here to test it, even if you've made them a million times before, and keep tasting that 'pickle broth' until it tastes just right. Also remember that it has to be stronger than the taste of a pickle because the pickles will only soak up so much of the taste from the brine.

I recommend mason jars, but you can use another type of glass container if you want to put your pickles in. Layer the pickles, onions, and mustard seeds. Shake the jars to get them to lay flat. We like the pickled onion bits around here as much as the pickles themselves so we probably use 1 onion per jar. You can use less, but use a little bit or they won't taste right. Then pour your brine over the top. I usually wind up going back to make a little more brine for these guys because it never seems to be the right amount. You can do just the vinegar, water, salt, sugar mix to top up the jars as long as they are at least 3/4 full.

Put your lids on and shake them all up. Make sure the jars are wiped clean of water or your husband will be wondering why you're throwing pickles on the walls (or at him). So shake really well and then put in the back of your fridge. The hard part is to leave these guys alone for a week. They taste better AFTER a week, but they're not bad if it's just a week. I often get requests for these pickles. My mother said that she once ate an entire quart jar of them in one sitting without realizing she did it.

The good thing about these is that you can re-use the pickle juice. After the pickles are gone, repack the jars with more pickle pieces and onion and do it again! You can also toss slices of roasted beets in the pickle juice and they make great pickled beets. I use the same recipe for the B&B's as for my pickled beets. If I'm making just beets, though, I usually leave out the turmeric and curry powder. Everything else stays. THEN you can take the leftover pickled beet juice and make pickled eggs with them, etc. It goes on. Very frugal recipe that you can do a lot with.

German-Style Dill Pickles (very similar to Gundelsheims, I think!)

The recipe is originally from Germany and I've fiddled with it a bit, but it's still a bit odd in places due to metric measurement conversions. I've found it has the best sweet-sour dill pickle taste so I had to keep the wonky brine measurements even if I changed the acidity of the vinegar.

6 1/2 pounds of pickles, sliced into spears and kept in salty ice water for several hours
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped

Bottom of every quart jar:
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp dill seeds
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp garlic powder
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped roughly
1 bay leaf *
1/4 sliced onion
1 clean oak or grape leaf


4 liters filtered water
2 liters of raw apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1.1 pounds of sugar
2 handfuls of salt (I've figured that this is approximately 1 cup)

Note about bay leaves: Whole Foods usually carries fresh bay leaves in their fresh herb section. If they don't, or you don't have a Whole Foods around, try to find the greenest bay leaves you can. They should be heavily aromatic. I keep my fresh leaves in the fridge. They dry out over time, but they last at least 2 years in the fridge without quality loss. If you can only get the dried out brown ones, or they aren't very strong smelling, use 2 instead of one.

Heat your water, salt, and sugar until just dissolved. Add the vinegar when the mix has cooled down a little but is still warm. Taste it now. It should be strong, very salty, slightly sweet. Put your spices in your jar and get add your icy pickle spears to the jars. Stand them upright and cram the little guys in there. Cover the pickles with the brine, leaving 1/4 inch headroom, wipe the jar tops off, and process immediately. I put them in a water bath on boil for about 15 minutes. Out of 7 jars, 2 didn't seal so they went in the fridge. I found this article here to be invaluable with my pickles because I had never been able to figure out how to can them without making them mush.