Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dill Pickles

Yes, I craved pickles when I was pregnant, but this was no big shocker; I had already been craving pickles for my entire life. My parents used to bribe me to wash my hair with the promise of a pickle in the bathtub, which I munched with a great and sudsing happiness. I ate sweet gherkins and sour dills and bread and butters. I ate cornichons and half-sours and spicy sandwich slices. And my favorite pickles of all were and are my mom's: the dill pickle recipe that she got from our long-ago neighbor Joe Szarwas, a version of which I'm offering you here. If you've never made pickles before, you will make these, and then you'll be like, Really? Because they are so easy and so good. Crunchy, dilly, garlicky, a little salty, a little sour. Or a lot sour, if you're me and you leave them on the counter for three full days before eating them, at which point they will have turned the khaki green of a pickle that's going to make you pucker up and kiss it. If you're my dad, then you eat them before the brine has fully cooled, and your brat of a daughter will say, "You call that a pickle?" like she's the only real Jew in the family, which maybe she is.

Dill Pickles
Active time: 5 minutes; total time: 2-3 days

This is a good time of year to get small pickling cucumbers from farm stands and farmers' markets, but no worries if you can't; just slice up a big cuke or two and make pickles from that. They'll still be delicious.

4 cups of water
3 tablespoons of kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 pounds small pickling cucumbers or 2 seedless English cucumbers (the kind wrapped in plastic)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
4 large sprigs of dill (or two fresh dill heads, if you can get them)
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

Combine the water, salt, and vinegar in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil, then turn off the heat and leave the brine to cool completely.

Meanwhile prepare the cucumbers: wash them, trim off the blossom ends (that's the end opposite where it grows on the stem), and, if you’re using large cucumbers, slice them a quarter inch thick, otherwise leave them whole. Put the cucumbers in a large glass or nonreactive metal bowl with the garlic, dill and peppercorns layered throughout, then pour the cooled brine over all of it (if you’re a bit short, simply mix up another batch or half batch and cool it quickly in the freezer before adding).

Lay a plate over the top of the cukes—one small enough to fit in the bowl, but large enough to cover most of the veggies, since it will help keep them submerged in the brine. Now leave the cucumbers for 2 or 3 days, until they are nice and sour to your liking. Transfer them with their brine to a large glass jar, in which they will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks—though you’re unlikely to have them for that long.


  1. Anonymous4:01 PM

    Greetings from a pickle novice! My cukes and garlic are waiting patiently beside me while the brine cools on the stove, but I'm wondering if, once combined, these things sit out of the fridge for the 2-3 days? Thank you for all your lovely posts. Zoë

    1. Zoe, that's right! They ferment at room temperature first, and then you store them in the fridge. Happy pickling! xo

  2. Allyson3:52 AM

    Is it lame of me that I noticed, and miss, the original introduction to this recipe, all about the pregnant Anni coming to live with you? I even remember the original photos. Wasn't there a close-up of a pickle and Anni's belly? It's possible that I may need to get a life, Catherine. Also, this is still my favorite pickle recipe ever. So easy and so wonderful.

  3. Epiphius3:38 AM

    Have you ever tried water-bath canning this recipe? I received it from a friend but have 50#'s of cukes and not that much fridge space! :)