Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post
DIY Jul 8, 2015
These old-fashioned sours are crisp, flavorful and full of pucker. Select only small, straight Kirby pickling cucumbers so they fit harmoniously in a jar and can be brined whole. Use any of the flavorings listed, or all of them for a flavor bomb of a pickle.
Cucumbers with soft spots, bruises or cuts will not pickle well; use them for salads. You’ll need 3 clean, wide-mouth quart jars with clean screw-on caps for each.
Make Ahead: The cucumbers need to soak for 30 minutes in ice water. The pickles need at least 3 days’ fermentation time, or more as needed (see below). The fermented pickles can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.
Tested size: 12 servings; makes 3 quarts
- 12 small or medium Kirby (pickling) cucumbers (see headnote)
- 8 cups filtered, non-chlorinated water
- 1/4 cup kosher or sea salt
- 12 garlic scapes or 9 large cloves fresh spring garlic (optional)
- 3 fresh dill seed heads or 3 teaspoons dried dill seed (optional)
- 1 jalapeño pepper, cut into 9 thin slices (optional)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns (optional)
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the cucumbers, swishing them around to dislodge any dirt and to plump them before brining. Soak for 30 minutes, then remove them and scrub away any remaining soil.
Combine the 8 cups of water and the salt in a medium pot over high heat; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. This will be the base brine; remove from the heat and cool completely.
If you are using any of the optional flavoring components (garlic scapes, garlic, fresh dill seed heads or dried dill seed, jalapeño and/or black peppercorns), divide them among the three jars.
Trim off and discard 1/8-inch from both ends of each cucumber. Pack 3 into the jar, standing up, then place another cucumber across the others, essentially pinning them down. This method holds the cucumbers under the brine.
Pour the brine over the cucumbers, making sure to cover them completely. Loosely cap the jars; set them inside a pan or on a dish to catch any spillover. Place the jars out of the sun on the counter for 3 days. Every day, loosen the caps and “burp” the jars, then replace the cap to continue the fermentation. The water will become cloudy, and lazy bubbles might be evident; this is a good thing.
After 3 days, slice off a piece of one pickle from each jar and taste it. Is it sour enough for you? If not, allow the pickles to continue to ferment, tasting regularly. (Cathy Barrow suggests a week will do the trick; in theory, the pickles can ferment for weeks longer.) Once the pickles taste good to you, tighten the caps; place them in the refrigerator (for up to 1 month).