• Sour Dill Pickles! Posted on October 07, 2013

    Sour Dill Pickles! Why this recipe works: At my very first job I was often found in the walk-in fridge gobbling down a juicy dill pickle from a giant bucket. Briny, garlicky, and crisp, a full-sour dill pickle satiated my wicked salt cravings—and still does. After all these years, I finally realized that if I just made my own, I could have a never-ending stash.

    Sour Dill Pickles

    Makes 10 to 12 pickles

    Start today, enjoy in 10 to 21 days

    2 pounds pickling cucumbers, sliced 1/8 inch thick
    1 onion, halved and sliced through root end into 1/8‑inch-thick pieces
    1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/8‑inch-wide strips
    1/4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt (see page 70)
    5-7 cups ice cubes
    2 cups cider vinegar
    2 cups sugar
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
    3/4 teaspoon turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    First, I had to decide whether I wanted a quick-vinegar or fermented dill pickle. Quick pickles are steeped in a salty vinegar solution and are ready in as little as a few hours. They’re good in a pinch, but the sour bite is really just skin deep, as they rely on the vinegar for flavor. With fermented pickles, a saltwater brine is poured over whole cucumbers and they are left to sit. Natural fermentation takes over and the cucumber transforms—all the way to its very center—into a true sour pickle. (A little vinegar is added at the beginning, but it’s only enough to keep things food-safe until fermentation kicks in.) This type of pickle can take some time to cure, but the reward is a pickle with a genuine sour bite that’s not for wimps. To get the full flavor of a tangy deli-style kosher dill pickle, I was willing to wait for fermentation to do its thing. You should, too.

    Be aware that if your garlic is very fresh, it will likely turn blue. Don’t worry; it’s just reacting to the acid. Note that when fermenting, cleanliness of both the ingredients and your utensils is critical.

    The best brine: The first step is to make the saltwater brine. The amount of salt is critical: Salt keeps the bad bacteria at bay (my first batch turned moldy because the salt concentration was too low), but using too much can slow fermentation to a halt. With more than half a cup of kosher salt to 8 cups of water, my brine is fairly salty. I also add vinegar, just enough to keep it food-safe until fermentation kicks in. Dissolve the salt in half of the water over medium-high heat, then stir in the rest of the water and vinegar. Let the brine cool to room temp before pouring it over the cucumbers.

    Choose the right cuke: Kirby, aka pickling, cucumbers are the best variety for this recipe (and any pickling recipe, hence their name). Make sure they're as fresh as possible, picking ones that are firm and green. Rinse them off in a colander to get rid of any sand. Depending on their size and your container's shape (use a 3- to 4‑quart sterilized jar or a pickle crock), the number you end up fermenting will vary, but it will likely be around 10 or 12.

    Pack those pickles: Along with the pickles, I add a few extras–fresh dill, dill seeds, smashed garlic cloves, and whole peppercorns–to boost the flavor. Tightly pack your jar or crock with the cucumbers, alternating the dill, garlic, and spices along the way. Only fill the jar to about 2 inches from the top to leave room for the brine. Make sure to use clean tongs to limit transferring bacteria into the jar.

    Submerge completely: To pour the brine over the cucumbers, I find it easiest to first transfer the brine from the saucepan to a liquid measuring cup. Fill the jar with brine until it's about an inch from the top. It's very important that the pickles and spices are covered in the brine by at least 1/2 inch. My recipe intentionally makes extra brine; reserve about 1 quart and store it in the fridge so that you can replenish the crock if any of the liquid evaporates during fermentation.

    A weighty matter: If anything pops up above the brine, it runs the risk of getting moldy. I like to arrange a piece of parchment in the jar or crock, then weigh it down with a small bowl or plate (a saucer or bread-and-butter plate should be a good fit) to prevent any potential issues. This holds the pickles safely beneath the brine's surface and creates a seal that keeps the pickles from going bad.

    Keep it clean: The next step is to cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth that's been folded over a few times. This keeps out dust while letting gas escape; gas is produced as the pickles ferment. To keep the cheesecloth from falling into the liquid, I use a rubber band to secure the cloth in place.

    Sour beginnings: Keeping the jar at room temperature and away from direct sunlight will help fermentation. Check it daily to make sure the brine is covering the pickles, topping it off if necessary. Skim off any scum that might collect on the brine's surface, and if the cheesecloth gets damp, replace it. After three days you'll notice the brine is starting to look cloudy and some bubbles may be rising up. After 10 days, the pickles should be turning a yellow-green color and the brine will be really cloudy. Take a pickle out and try it. It should have a nice sour flavor.

    Superlative sours: My pickles took just 10 days to get the flavor that I wanted, but it could take longer. They can sit at room temperature for up to 21 days. When the flavor is where you want it, transfer them to the refrigerator. They'll keep on fermenting in there (at a much slower pace than they do at room temperature.

    courtesy of: http://www.wnyc.org/story/277606-recipe-sour-dill-pickles-and-bread-and-butter-pickles/

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