In A Pickle

8 06 2011

Homemade dill pickles

I do apologize for the increasing silence on this blog of late.  I’ve been very busy facing some Major Life and Career Decisions, and it’s distracting, to say the least.  I don’t want to go into it too much, but I have two very exciting job opportunities before me, and I’ve been wavering between them for weeks now.  Both jobs would be a big step up for me, and neither would require me to wake up at 5:00 am on a regular basis, so it’s generally a good situation, but I’m having a really hard time deciding which is the right next step for me.

But enough about me.  You don’t come here to read about my career angst, you come here (I hope) to read about Paris and the food I eat and cook here.  Paris by Mouth, an entertaining and informative website run by my friends Meg and Barbra, recently opened a brand-new discussion forum to celebrate the site’s 1st birthday.  It’s a great place for food-lovers in Paris to congregate and ask each other where to find the best steaks, outdoor eating, or ethnic eats in town.  It’s also a useful tool for travelers, as anyone planning a trip here can ask the forum for help finding family-friendly restaurants, places they can use AmEx, or the best food markets in a given neighborhood.  In one thread, somebody asked where to get dill pickles in France, and I remembered that while I’ve been making my own for several summers now, I had yet to post a recipe.

The reasons for this omission are twofold: one, because it’s hard to photograph things in jars; and two, because I never wrote down what I did, and the pickles came out slightly differently each time.  But knowing there was demand, I made sure to take notes on what I was doing when I made my most recent batch of pickles, from a gorgeous organic cucumber that came in my CSA bag.


I make a brine, taking inspiration and direction from Jessica of Apples and Butter and Michael Ruhlman‘s excellent book, Ratio.  While I’m waiting for it to cool, I prep my cucumbers and the jar.  (My favorite pickle jar is one that used to contain peeled chestnuts.  It’s the perfect size to hold a whole cucumber, cut into spears.)  I halve the cucumber, then halve the halves…

…then halve those, take out the seedy bit, and finally cut once more to create perfect pickle spears.  These get jammed into my jar, which is lined with fresh dill and a few spices.  Any whole spices will work, but mustard, garlic, and coriander are pretty classic, and I like the kick the pickles get from a hint of red chili flakes.  As luck would have it, this batch came out just the way I want my dill pickles to taste: cooling and crunchy, with just a touch of garlic and chili heat.  They’re just right next to a sandwich or burger, though I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t just been eating them out of the jar as an afternoon snack.

Dill pickles

Dill Pickles

Combine a dislike of cucumbers with a lack of dill pickles in France, and you end up with a pickling maniac! I haven’t tested the longevity of this recipe – once the jar is open they disappear within a week or two. Though if your jars are sterilized and you store them in a cool, dark place, I see no reason these couldn’t last a few months.

1 large cucumber
½ cup / 120 ml white wine vinegar or plain white vinegar
2 cups / 475 ml water
1 oz. / 30 g salt
3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
A few shakes of red pepper flakes
10 or so sprigs of fresh dill

1. First, make the brine. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. Each of the mustard seeds and coriander seeds, and a shake of red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the cucumber. Wash it well and trim off the ends. Cut it in half so you have two cylinders, hopefully about the same length as your jar is tall. Cut each cylinder into quarters, lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Slice the de-seeded quarters in half again to make spears.

3. In a large, clean jar, pack about five sprigs of fresh dill. Add the remaining teaspoons of mustard seeds and coriander seeds, a clove of garlic, and another shake of red pepper flakes, if you wish (I usually do). Pack the cucumber spears into the jar vertically, and pour the cooled brine over them. When the jar is full, use a few more dill sprigs to ensure the cucumbers stay immersed in the brine.

4. Close the jar and leave it out at room temperature for 3-4 days. Move it to the fridge and wait another 3-4 days. Enjoy.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


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