It’s almost summer.
My favorite time of the year. Yes Friends, I am a summer animal. There’s not much that I can think of that I enjoy more than a great summer day with my feet in the sand, the ocean pounding in my ears, and an outrageous mystery thriller or six to put my brain on pause (well, there IS one thing, but hey, this is a family website).
Summer means fresh produce growing in the garden—we’ve got sugar snap peas; three kinds tomatoes (who doesn’t); three kinds peppers (two hot and one sweet); eggplants; lots of romaine lettuce; scallions; and herbs, herbs, herbs. The rose bushes are in full bloom, the grass is growing way too fast (so are the weeds); and the air conditioners have been put in place for the ladies of the house.
Summer means the kids are off from school and home all the time…oh, wait…
And for me the summer means pickles. I mean to say I make pickles. By the bushel full. If you know me at all, you likely know that pickles means kosher-style, vinegary and garlic-laden, salty, spicy, dilly, genuine New York deli-style pickles. I have been getting my cucumbers, Kirbys and baby English cukes, from our favorite neighborhood farmer’s markets, Brook Lawn Farm Market in Neffsville and Harvest Lane Farm Market, on Oregon Road in Manheim Township. I make them all summer long, as long as the Kirbys are available, because they’re a great low-calorie snack, and because they replace some of the salt I lose when walking Stella the dog in the summer heat.
I’m following my mother’s recipe—about the only thing she made in the summertime, because it doesn’t require cooking—and the pickles are every bit as good as the ones we got at the Epicure or from Murray’s in Merion, and way better than the ones I get now at the grocery store. Because I can determine just how much garlic, just how much vinegar, just how much spices. I did riff a bit on Mom’s recipe, because she didn’t like them as spicy as I do. But when you read the recipe you can back off on the heat or the vinegar if you wish, but they will be…well…different.
But as I always do, I’ll share the recipe with you here as I make them—no cooking required, just patience. And I promise that if you like real New York-style kosher dills, you’ll get them.
Here’s the road map:
New York Deli-style Straight Outta’-the-barrel Kosher Dills
- 8-9 Kirby cucumbers
- 2 Tablespoons pickling or kosher salt (pickling salt is better)
- 24 ounces BOTTLED water (DON’T USE LOCAL SINK WATER—IMPORTANT!)
- 8 ounces white vinegar
- 4 (or more or less—you get to decide here) cloves fresh garlic, smashed, skins on
- 4 Tablespoons pickling spice
- 2 teaspoons dill seeds (you could use fresh dill, but trust me, the seeds are a better option—you will be fermenting, and fresh dill could be a problem)
- 2 dried Thai chili peppers (optional, makes the pickles spicier)—I grow my own and dry them; you can get them at the Asian market.
- Wash the cucumbers well and cut off both ends—just barely nip them—about ¼ inch, but this is important.
- Stir the water, vinegar, and salt together until the salt is completely dissolved.
- Place 2 cloves garlic, 2 Tbsp pickling spice, 1 tsp. dill seeds and 1dried pepper in each of 2 quart-size containers. I use plastic containers I’ve saved from buying dill pickles from the refrigerator case at Aldi (see photo)—they’re the best I’ve found—or restaurant take-out quart-size soup containers (also saved). Wide-mouth canning jars are okay too, but it’s harder to get the pickles out later
- Cut the cucumbers in half or quarters lengthwise and pack them the into the containers. Pack them as tight as you can, so they won’t float when you add the brine. You could do them whole, but you’ll get fewer pickles per batch. If you like your pickles whole, use a half-gallon or gallon wide-mouth container, and keep the ingredient ratios exactly the same; if you make a gallon at a time, double the ingredients. The important thing is the salt-to liquid ratio—it must be 2 tablespoons salt to each quart of liquid.
- Add the brine to each container, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Make sure the cucumbers are completely submerged in the brine. They will want to float to the surface. Try getting another quarter cucumber in to make them tighter, or weigh them down with a fermenting weight or a small zipper-close bag with water in it. It’s important that they stay submerged, or the exposed ends will mold, and ruin the whole batch.
- Place the lids LOOSELY on top of the container, so the jars can breathe and the pickles can ferment. You don’t want to close the lids, as this will prevent the fermenting process from happening.
- Store the pickles in a cool dark location for anywhere from 24 hours to 7 days, depending on how crunchy or soft you like your pickles—the longer they ferment, the softer they get, and also the more intense the flavor. I ferment mine for 48 hours; I like the crunch and the flavor of 2-day pickles. Remove the weight, close the lids tight, and place them in the fridge.
The pickles will keep in the fridge for about a month, but they’ll never last that long. They will continue to get more flavorful as they sit in the brine.