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.




19 responses

8 06 2011

Oh I’ve had Jessica’s recipe marked since she posted it and I STILL haven’t made pickles. I’m gonna have to get on that!

8 06 2011

Yum! Thanks for posting the recipe, I will need to get on this as well… And, if you need inspriation for the next bunch of radishes we get:

9 06 2011
hungry dog

Can’t wait to hear about your Big Life Decisions! Good luck! (And thanks for the pickle recipe…)

9 06 2011

Oh, how I love, long for, and adore pickles! All the ones I can buy here in supermarkets are sickly sweet, and I’ve never had the courage to make my own. These look doable, though!

Also, two job options?! Have you told me about the other? Good luck making the decision – remember, as I tried to do when I was also facing multiple job offers earlier this year, that there’s no *wrong* decision. Everything equals adventure!

9 06 2011
Fiona at Life on Nanchang Lu

Been wondering where you were! Best of luck with the decision-making process, it’s always much easier to choose between an apple and an orange than two perfect peaches.

This post has great timing though – two days ago I finally found a big bottle of good quality white vinegar thinking ‘I’d really like to know more about pickling’ and now I can get started. Thanks! Just a quick question though – if I want my pickles a touch sweet, can I add a little sugar to the brine?

Cheers, Fiona

10 06 2011

Thank you for posting your recipe for dill pickles. I love cucumbers in salads like you find in Paris bistros but I do like dill pickles too. So I will definitely try this. Good luck on your job decision.

10 06 2011

Hopie – You really should! The time investment is so minimal, and the payoff so huge!

researchingparis – Thanks! I’m always looking for radish inspiration.

hungry dog – Thank you, and you’re welcome. 🙂

Hannah – They are totally doable. And thank you for the encouraging words. I haven’t told you about the other, but I believe I owe you an email…

Fiona – I haven’t tried my hand at sweet pickles yet, but I have no reason to believe it wouldn’t work!

Michel – Sadly, I’ve never been much of a cornichon fan. But I hope you like the recipe!

11 06 2011

These are gorgeous, Camille! I’ve been into pickle-making since an experiment last year with the Zuni Café Cookbook. I hope I can give yours a try soon.

13 06 2011

I LOVE pickles but hate the French sweet ones. I mostly miss half-sours!

Good luck with the job-making decision. Congratulations on having a choice!

13 06 2011

Can’t wait to hear about where you decide to go! I love pickled anything, this’ll be a goo recipe to keep in mind! PS: I have that same scale haha.

15 06 2011

Ann – Thank you! Was it the zucchini pickles? I made those last week. They’re awesome!

emiglia – Yeah, the French “sweet” pickles are NOT what I’m looking for.

Jessica – The cheap one from the restaurant supply store? Love it! 🙂

15 06 2011
The Mistress of Spices

Mmmm I am drooling reading this! I too love dill pickles and it’s true that I miss them here! I’ve never been brave enough to make my own, but your recipe sounds simple enough! Good luck with the career decisions…I’m at somewhat of a turning point myself so I can totally understand!

18 06 2011

Mistress of Spices – It really is surprisingly easy to make your own pickles! And now that we’re heading into cucumber season, and they’re cheaper than ever…

7 07 2011
This Week’s Harvest, 7/6 « Seasonal Market Menus

[…] what of Mr. Cucumber there?  Well, the pickle jar is nearly […]

19 07 2011
Inger Wilkerson

I was always told that the big CSA cucumbers don’t work well sliced like this and ended up making hamburger dills with mine. I guess I will need to rethink this–there are certainly many more cucumbers on their way.

Best of luck with your career decision. Too many good options is a great problem to have!

20 07 2011
From Cucumber to Hamburger Dill « Art of Natural Living

[…] I’m not a sweet pickle fan, so I always thought I was out of luck.  (Although I recently read a different take on this.)  Finally the light went on (some light bulbs are slower than others).  Why not do sliced […]

21 07 2011

Inger – Hamburger dills are a great idea! I might have to try that with my next cucumber! Ive never had a problem with the dill spears made from a big cucumber.

28 07 2011

Melissa directed me your way…I got a bag of pickling cukes from my CSA and this is exactly what I’m looking for!

1 08 2011

Amanda – Glad to hear it! I’d love to know how your pickles turn out!

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