|Update: The Pickle|
June 20, 2020
I have in my possession one of the great secrets to gustatory delight. Say goodbye to vinegar. Say hello to the magic that can be achieved through a little bit of salt and a lot of patience.
I will share that secret with you now.
KOSHER DILL PICKLES
24 of the freshest 4-inch pickling cucumbers
8 cups filtered water
1/2 cup sea salt
12 to 16 sprigs fresh dill (or substitute dill seeds, with 1/4 teaspoon seeds replacing 1 sprig)
8 cloves garlic, peeled
16 whole peppercorns
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
In a non-reactive soup pot, combine the water and salt. Simmer and stir until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool the brine to room temperature.
Snip the blossom end of each cucumber, exposing a bit of the white flesh.
Put cucumbers and all other ingredients into a large clay or glass crock. Pour in enough brine to cover all cucumbers by at least an two inches. They will float as the brine level rises, so push them down to make sure there is at least two inches of extra liquid above them. Make more brine if needed.
Place a clean ceramic or glass plate on top of the cucumbers, and place a sealed glass jar full of water on top of the plate to weigh it down and keep all the cucumbers below the surface of the brine. Use the largest plate possible that fits in the crock, and put the plate face-up to avoid trapping too much air under the plate.
Cover the crock with a clean pillow case. You can also use a towel, secured with a loop of string to cinch the loose ends shut around the crock.
Place in a cool place. 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for fermentation, which should take about three weeks, but happens faster at higher temperatures. Slower fermentation produces the most delicious results.
Every few days, remove the cloth cover and skim any scum or mold that appears on the surface. You will see bubbles coming up around the plate as long as fermentation is happening (you can tilt the plate a bit to observe any trapped bubbles).
After two weeks, remove the plate and sample one pickle. Rinse it off. Slice it in half along the cross section, and check how far the fermentation has progressed. If it's finished, the army-green translucent part should extend from the skin all the way to the center. If there's still some white-looking flesh near the center, the fermentation isn't done yet. You can also taste it for doneness. If they're not done, rinse the plate and put it back with the weight on top. Let them go another week and then sample one again.
Once fermentation is complete, fish all the pickles out and place them into jars. Ladle enough brine into each jar to cover them. Place them in a root cellar or refrigerator to keep them long term---they will be good to eat for many months.
To eat: Fish out a pickle from a jar with a fork, rinse off, slice, share, and enjoy.
Note that every year's batch of pickles tastes slightly different.
When you have a good pickle year, it's a really good year.