I rode my bike over to Chicago’s Green City Market on Saturday with one goal in mind: to find the makings for homemade pickles. That meant 4lbs. of pickling cucumbers, dill heads and a bunch of garlic. I ended up getting three different varieties, including round, white globe cucumbers.
That I am a serious pickle lover has never been in doubt. Mango Mama sometimes tells the story of when she took me to the fireman’s benefit dinner in Cannon Beach as a little kid. There were bowls of pickles on the tables, and I ended up eating all of the pickles from the dish in front of us. From then on, I have always been convinced that I could live on pickles alone if necessary.
Unfortunately, it’s tough to get good half-sours most places outside New York. Harvestime, our local Mexican grocery, which also caters to Eastern Europeans, has some pretty good ones in a vat above the deli case. But these don’t come anywhere near the crunchy deliciousness that I get from making my own refrigerator dills.
Mango Mama and I got the idea to make our own pickles from an article in The Oregonian food section two years ago. The recipe printed there was adapted from Portland’s own father of local and organic, Greg Higgins. He makes these at his excellent restaurant Higgins. I don’t can mine because I think they lose their crunch. I just leave them in the fridge until I’m ready to eat. If you like pickles, you should try making these at home. The only drawback is that you have to wait a few weeks before you can actually eat them.
Damn Good Dills
4qt. pickling cucumbers rinsed well
16 lrg. garlic cloves peeled, sliced
4 fresh dill heads halved
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 qt. cider vinegar
1 qt. water
1/4 cup pickling spices
1/3 cup pickling salt
2 tblsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 cup. chopped fresh dill heads
* Note: Do not use aluminum or iron cookware for this recipe. The acids in the ingredients could react with the metal, giving the food an off-taste.
* Wash 4 quart or 8 pint jars. Keep hot until needed. Prepare lids as manufacturer directs.
* Pack the cucumbers into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Divide the sliced pieces of garlic and halved heads of fresh dill among the jars. Add a pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) of the dried red pepper flakes to each jar.
* To make the brine: Combine vinegar, water, pickling spices, salt, sugar, turmeric and 1 cup chopped fresh dill in a pot (see note). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
* Put 4 cloves of garlic into each jar. Strain off the seasonings from the brine then ladle the hot brine into 1 jar at a time, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Let cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.
* The pickles are ready to use after 3 to 4 days of aging, but they will continue to improve for several weeks. They keep, refrigerated, for about 1 year.
* For storage at room temperature: Process the filled jars in a boiling-water canner 10 minutes for pints, 15 minutes for quarts (15 minutes for pints, 20 minutes for quarts at 1,000 to 6,000 feet; 20 minutes for pints, 25 minutes for quarts above 6,000 feet).
* This recipe yields 4 quarts or 8 pints.