Citizens – my personal, legendary recipe for kosher dill pickles is one of 3 “dead man” recipes I have created, meaning I will only share them on my shuffling off of this mortal coil. That said, this version of kosher pickles (based closely from a recipe found on NPR) is both excellent (especially after my tweaks) and truly delicious!
As an aside – the secret to the best pickles made in commercial quantities is to mature them, ideally, in a barrel that was used to ship olives from the Mediterranean – it adds something that can never be replicated… Lacking such an outré item, the following recipe works VERY well indeed – enjoy! ￼
Brined pickles are prepared using the traditional process of natural fermentation in a brine which makes them grow sour. There is no vinegar used in the brine of naturally fermented pickled cucumbers. The fermentation process is entirely dependent on the naturally occurring Lactobacillus bacteria that normally cover the skin of a growing cucumber. Since these are routinely removed during commercial harvesting/packing processes, traditionally prepared pickles can only be made from freshly harvested cucumbers.
A “kosher” dill pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it has been prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law. Rather, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic and dill to a natural salt brine.
In New York terminology, a “full-sour” kosher dill is one that has fully fermented, while a “half-sour,” given a shorter stay in the brine, is still crisp and bright green. Dill pickles (not necessarily described as “kosher”) have been served in New York City since at least 1899. They are not, however, native to New York; they have been prepared in Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Poland for hundreds of years.
Typically, small cucumbers are placed in a glass or ceramic vessel or a wooden barrel, together with a variety of spices. The container is then filled with cooled, boiled water and kept under a non-airtight cover (often cloth tied on with string or a rubber band) for several weeks, depending on taste and external temperature. Traditionally stones, also sterilized by boiling, are placed on top of the cucumbers to keep them under the water. The more salt is added, the more sour the cucumbers become.
Since they are produced without vinegar, a film of bacteria forms on the top, but this does not indicate they have spoiled, and the film is simply removed. They do not, however, keep as long as cucumbers pickled with vinegar, and usually must be refrigerated.
Brining is tricky – added to 1 quart of water, each tablespoon of sea salt (weighing about .6 ounce) adds 1.8% brine. So 2 tablespoons of salt in 1 quart of water yields a 3.6% brine, 3 tablespoons yields 5.4%, and so on.
Bring TFD, I am duty-bound to tweak a recipe to perfection – my seemingly eccentric use of tea seems totally bizarre, but it serves a secret purpose! The tea will not flavor the pickles at all, but DOES contribute tannic acid, which helps to keep the pickles crunchy!
I hope you will give these delicious pickles a try, Citizens! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 quart water
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound Kirby cucumbers, stem end sliced off
4-5 peeled garlic cloves
2-3 tablespoons homemade pickling spice
2 tablespoons top-quality black tea
2 bunches dill
1 tablespoon dill seeds
Homemade Pickling Spice
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons dill seed
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
10-12 bay leaves, crumbled
In a medium pan, combine water and salt. Bring to a boil and heat until the salt is fully dissolved. Set aside and let the brine fully cool before using.
Wash a wide-mouth quart jar and a small four-ounce jelly jar and let them dry.
Wash Kirby cucumbers well and trim the ends. Pack them into the clean quart jar with the garlic cloves and the pickling spice. Pour the cooled brine over the cucumbers. Tap the jar gently on your counter to settle the cucumbers and to remove any air bubbles.
Place the four-ounce jelly jar into the mouth of the quart jar and fill it with some of the remaining brine. Press it down so that it holds the cucumbers in place.
Put a small square of cheesecloth or a tea towel over the jar and secure it with a rubber band. Set the jar on a small plate or saucer and tuck it into a corner of your kitchen that’s cool and out of direct sunlight.
Check the jar every day to ensure that the cucumbers remain submerged in the brine. After a week, slice off a small amount of cucumber and taste. If you like the level of sourness that the pickle has reached, remove the jelly jar from the mouth of the quart, place a lid on the jar and move it to the fridge.
If you think they need to continue to sour, let them sit out for a few more days. Pickles can continue their fermentation process for up to three weeks.
They will last for months in the fridge.