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Dill Pickles (including half-sour) VI (P, TNT)
Source: " The I Love Shabbos Cookbook, Heavenly Sabbath Meals for Down-to-Earth Cooks," by Ruth Baks
Yield: 3 quarts

For a 3-quarts jar, I use:
20 cucumbers
2 cups vinegar
4 cups water
4 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
4 to 5 dry red chilies broken in half
1/2 head garlic peeled and sliced thin
A generous handful of fresh dill at the bottom and top

The following instructions offer guidance for making pickles in different sized jars.

Basic Instructions:
(1) Place a generous handful of fresh dill in the bottom of a clean mason jar.

(2) Pack with as many cucumbers as can fit in. Arrange cucumbers in an upright position, filling the jar in a compact manner so they will not float up after the brine is added. (If extra room remains at the top, tuck in a few small cucumbers sideways.)

(3) Add vinegar to fill 1/3 of the jar, then add water to fill to the top - (keep track of the water you use; it is necessary to know the exact measurement that is added.)

(4) Without dislodging packed cucumbers, carefully pour all of the liquid from the jar into a pot. For each cup of water you used, add 1 tablespoon kosher salt to the pot. The concentration of the brine - the ratio of salt to water - is critical to success, so measure accurately. Bring up to boil, stirring until salt is completely dissolved.

(5) Scatter spices over the cucumbers: whole black peppercorns, sliced garlic cloves, dried chilies, mixed pickling spices (may include dill seeds, white mustard seeds, coriander seeds, allspice berries, ginger root, cloves, black peppercorns, chilies, and bay leaves.) Refer to PROPORTIONS at the top for guidance; the exact quantity you use will depend on the size jar you are filling, as well as personal taste. Top with a large handful of fresh dill.

(6) Pour hot brine into jar, completely covering cucumbers; jiggle to expel air pockets. Top off with brine; cover tightly. Sealing the jar while still hot will create a vacuum, inhibiting the development of spoilage microbes which can thrive only in the presence of oxygen.

(7) Store in a cool, dark place until the sourness level you want is achieved. For half-sour, check after 24 hours. Transfer jar to refrigerator and chill thoroughly before serving; chilling will greatly enhance the flavor (as well as retard further fermentation.)

Tips for Success:
Before beginning, wash all utensils in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Make sure hands and work surfaces are scrupulously clean.

Where available, buy pickling cucumbers, rather than salad cucumbers. Avoid any which have been waxed; (wax interferes with the penetration of the pickling brine.) Choose small, firm, straight, blemish-free cucumbers, avoiding any which are hollow, soft, rubbery or shriveled. The fresher they are, the better. Do not use any that are bruised or damaged.

After harvesting, cucumbers deteriorate rapidly, especially at room temperature. Refrigerate as soon as you bring them home. Before pickling, wash them lightly, just enough to remove surface soil or sand but not enough to remove the natural bloom on the cucumbers. Swishing them back and forth in cold water is enough. If there are little black specks at the top of the warts, these should not be rubbed off; leaving this bloom (or glaze) intact will help the pickles to ferment and preserve firmness.

Trim away stem and cut the tiny tip off the blossom end. (The blossom releases enzymes that soften the cucumber.)

To promote crispness, thoroughly chill the cucumbers before adding the hot brine.

Do not use free-flowing salt for making pickles as it contains elements which can interfere with the fermentation process. Iodine contained in table salt will cause pickles to darken; anti-caking agents can cause clouding in the brine.

Use only soft water (with low levels of minerals and chlorine.) Hard water (with high mineral content) can lower brine acidity, possibly compromising food safety. To soften hard water, boil in a pot for 15 minutes, then cover and let stand undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove any scum that forms on the surface. Slowly pour off the water, being careful not to disturb the sediment that has settled to the bottom.

Prepare the brine in a non-reactive pot, preferably stainless steel, enamel or glass-ceramic; do not use pots or utensils made of copper, iron, zinc, or brass; these materials can be reactive to acid and salt. Blue-green color changes sometimes occur in garlic during pickling, but are not considered a health risk. Garlic contains sulfur, which can react with copper present in the water, forming copper sulfate, a blue compound, tinting the garlic blue. Enzymes may catalyze in the presence of even a small amount of copper, even from traces found in common tap water; therefore the recommendation to de-mineralize (soften) water before pickling (some people use only distilled water for this purpose in order to avoid the problem.). Garlic's natural sulfur content may also react with copper, iron, tin or aluminum cooking utensils, also prompting a change in the color. Greenish-blue garlic is often seen when pickling in the Spring (Pesach time) using fresh garlic not fully mature (not thoroughly dry)--this greenish discoloration is due to a reaction between the pigment in immature garlic and the acid in the vinegar. Exposure to sunlight or changes in temperature may also cause garlic to turn green. These color changes are not harmful, and the garlic is safe to eat (unless other signs of spoilage are evident.)

Avoid cider or malt vinegars, these can cause the pickles to darken. Instead, use white distilled vinegar with 5% acidity.

Whole spices are preferred. Ground spices can darken the brine and cause it to become cloudy. Fresh spices will contribute superior flavor.

After adding the hot brine, it is important that the cucumbers are completely submerged. Exposure to air can enable the spread of spoilage microbes. This means that if even the tip of one cucumber sticks up above the brine this can be enough to cause the whole batch to spoil!

70°F - 75°F is the ideal temperature range for the development of lactic acid bacteria and therefore the most conducive to successful fermentation. When your pickles have soured just about the way you like, put the jar into the refrigerator. Low temperatures will inhibit (slow down) further fermentation.

Reserve surplus brine in a small jar in the refrigerator. As pickles are later removed from the pickling jar, the brine level will drop due to displacement. You may augment with the reserved brine; if needed, make additional brine, maintaining the original salinity: 1 tablespoon coarse salt to each cup of water.

To eliminate the need for repeated calculations, once you've established how much of each ingredient is required for the size jar you are using, write it down and refer to this record when refilling the same jar again. You will only need to fill and empty the jar of liquid the first time you make the pickles, in order to measure and record the amounts. The next time, simply pack the cucumbers and spices into the jar, and pour your recorded amounts of water, vinegar and salt into the pot to heat; proceed as before.

Poster's Notes:
The following recipe can be adapted to any size jar. To ensure success, it is important to have a basic understanding of the fermentation process so that pitfalls may be avoided.

During pickling, the cucumbers soak in a salty brine favorable to the growth of lactic acid bacteria. This bacteria digest sugars in the cucumbers and in return produce lactic acid, providing the sour tang. Careful monitoring of the brine's salinity (salt concentration,) temperature and exposure to air is necessary to prevent the invasion of spoilage-causing microorganisms which can ruin the pickles (and pose a health hazard.)

Once you understand the basic principles, pickle-making can be fun, and the results foolproof... not to mention TASTY!

Study carefully the practical tips following the recipe before you begin pickling.

These pickles may be made for Passover; for some, with modification. Those who abstain from eating legumes will omit flavoring with kitniyot, (e,g., mustard seeds, coriander, etc.). Additionally, some have the custom to avoid the use of garlic at this time. Alternatively, some only use garlic that is fresh--not dry--in this case, note the comments at the end describing color changes when pickling with fresh garlic.

Posted by Ruth Baks

Nutritional Info Per Serving: N/A