Monday, 13 August 2007

Homemade Dill Pickles

NAME: _Homemade Dill Pickles

around half a kilo of thin pickling cucumbers
half a litre of wine or apple cider vinegar (you can try different ones)
half a litre of water (see Method for exact amount of water + vinegar)
about 50g - 150g fresh dill
one packet "pickling spices" (see Notes)
level dessertspoonful of rock salt (NOT iodised salt)
half a brown onion (optional)
one clove garlic (optional)
Couple of heatproof jars with sealing lids

Slice the cucumbers to suitable slices, I make mine about half a centimetre thick, try out in jars - set aside as many jars as you will need to fit your sliced cukes with between 1 and 4 cm space per jar. Take the cucumber slices back out, fill the jars with reasonably hot water from the tap, make sure they don't shatter. If they pass the test, go to make the pickling liquid.

Half fill each jar you're going to use with vinegar, tip that vinegar into a stainless steel pot. Keep about a cupful back to place in a blender with most of the roughly chopped dill. (Keep a few small sprigs to decorate the jars.) Add the lightly blended dill and vinegar liquid to the vinegar in the pot, then do the same measurement (half the volume that jars need) with water and add that to the pot too. Add the salt and the pack of pickling spices and bring this mixture to the boil. Slice a few rings of onion per jar, half a crushed peeled clove of garlic if using, and get the reserved sprigs of dill ready.

Once the pickling mix is boiling reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer for a few minutes, meanwhile refill the jars with very hot water and leave to stand for a few minutes, then use a tea towel to emtpy them and fill up with a few onion rings, the sprig of dill, the garlic if using, and then the cucumber slices as you did before. Using a fine strainer, pour enough liquid into each jar to come right to the top. Fish out a peppercorn or two from the pickling spices and add to each jar, then close the lids lightly. I do this stage with the jars sitting in the sink, just in case.

After about five minutes the jars will have cooled a bit, close the lids tightly and allow to cool to room temperature. Once at room temp, place in refrigerator or a very cool storeroom for a week. The boiling pickling liquid will have just blanched the cucumbers without taking the crispness out of them, and the flavours will have percolated through by then.

Anywhere that a side dish of dill pickles is called for. I loved these with the Borschtchi I made the other day, and they have a nice light flavour due to the water diluting the mixture.

These pickles will keep for a few weeks at any rate, but mine never last that long... Also, I realise that some people says that there should never be water involved in the pickling process but every rule is made to be broken, and this recipe needs the lighter flavours.

Pickling spices are sold in packs in most supermarkets but if you want to, just toss a dozen peppercorns in the mixture instead, and a couple of crushed dried bay leaves. Some fennel seeds will give an aniseed hint, or some caraway seeds a slightly more European flavour. Experiment is the key. Also, you may prefer not to use an onion ring for flavouring, nor garlic - and certain things go better with certain vinegars, I used white wine vinegar for this recipe and it is perfect.

I have a so-called "bullet blender" which means I tend to use it a lot - you can also fine-chop the dill and add it to the pickling mixture, but I find that the blender does the job faster than I could, and more uniformly. Your call...

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