Lekker: Bread & Butter Pickles

There are lots of reasons why I love to cook, to bake, and to futz around in the kitchen in general.

One is that I love to engage my mind by expanding my skill set and learning new things about flavour combination, technique, and food chemistry.

Two is that I like having a hobby that is productive of something, where I have something to show for it at the end of the day. Creating something (a dish) out of nothing (just "ingredients") to share with others is fulfilling, to me anyway.

Over the weekend I had some time to kill on a gloomy Sunday afternoon and a brand new mandolin that I was just itching to use, so I decided to refer to Reason #1 by attempting homemade pickles for the first time. I like these low-investment experiments because even if I screw it all up, all I've lost is a cucumber and some vinegar, so no tears shed. (Pshh, as if.) Plus, I *LOVE* pickles. Claussen Dill Spears are my all-time favourite; you find them in the refrigerated section because they're not hot brined like most pickles (and this recipe is) so they are suuuuper crunchy and bright and sharp in flavour. I've always asserted that these pickles are the best appetite suppressant out there. I don't know if it's the acidity of the vinegar or what, but whenever I'm feeling like I want to snack for no reason I just chomp on a few of those and I'm satisfied.

This recipe is not for those kind of pickles. Sorry to disappoint after all that raving, but I have no clue how to make those. Blame it on my ADD, baby. THIS recipe, however, is for a basic bread-and-butter type pickle that goes well on sammiches and could be further processed into a BOMB sweet relish. Up to you. You don't need to have a mandolin to make this, as long as you've got a steady hand with a knife and a good eye for making even slices. I, however, find using the mandolin very peaceful and way too much fun to the point that now I'm just looking around my kitchen for things I can slice, julienne, or crinkle cut. (But not my hand; I managed to slice off part of my finger by accident by getting too enthusiastic and misjudging how much room was left between the cucumber and my digits. Oh well. Respawn!)

Don't those feathery fronds looks just so pretty floating around in there? Note how I did not stuff my jar properly. Lesson learned for next time. 

Bread and Butter Pickles

What You Need
1 large English cucumber (those are the long skinny ones in shrink wrap)
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon turmeric (sidebar: this spice is a real superfood; sneak it in wherever you can)
1 bunch dill fronds, about 1.5 cups

Righty-o then, here we go.

What You Do
1. First thing to do is prep the veggies. Slice up the cucumbers into pickle-sized slices, whatever that means to you. On a baking sheet lined with paper towels, sprinkle down a layer of salt. Lay the cucumbers down and sprinkle more salt on top. Let sit for about 15 minutes to draw out some of the moisture, then press down with another layer of paper towels to pat them dry.

2. While the cucumbers are sweating it out like a whore in church, you can mix up the brine. In a medium saucepot over medium heat, combine all the other ingredients except the dill fronds and bring to a boil so that the sugar dissolves completely.

3. Stuff your cucumbers into a large glass jar and layer the dill fronds amongst them. I didn't use enough for this batch as you can see so definitely add more since the taste really gets mellowed out by the brine.

Really, stuff the jar full because they'll float and move around and you'll suddenly wind up with more space that you expected.

4. Once the brine comes to a boil, pour it slowly and carefully into the jar. It should come all the way to the top of the jar without much brine left over. If you are panicky about not having enough brine, add another cup of vinegar and another 1/2 cup of sugar in step 2. But really, these are just pickles, there is no reason to get panicky. Seal the jar and stick it in the fridge to...well...pickle! After 24 hours you're good to go. Nom nom.

So like I said, if you want to take it a step further you can drain the pickles and chop them into relish. These got the green light from both housemate TB and I as-is, though I do prefer a less sweet pickle and will therefore continue to tweak this recipe. I'm also going to attempt cold brining to see if I can replicate the crispness of my beloved Claussen Dill Pickles.
Posted on August 27, 2013 .