Making Pickles

And now for a closer look at the pickles briefly featured in the raclette post…




I made these babies earlier this month. The main thing keeping me from making my own lacto-fermented, or brined, pickles sooner was lack of access to grape leaves. Most pickle recipes that I have read call for spices to be added to a crock, then a layer of cucumbers, a layer of grape leaves, etc. The tannins in the grape leaves are said to keep the pickles crisp as they ferment. I still don’t have any grape leaves lying around, but I recently read that horseradish leaves will also do the trick, so I called on a friend whose dad grows horseradish in his yard. Though his papa enjoys the spicy little root, it grows like a weed, threatening to overtake his garden, so my friend has been known to show up with bags of dirty little horseradish roots whenever he’s been at his parents’ house on weeding days. Needless to say, I love this. When I asked for some leaves, he was all too happy to show up at my door with a huge freaking plant, roots and all, hanging out in a bucket. I am sorry that I failed to photo document.

I washed the leaves well and sliced the root finely using my ceramic slicer. A grater or mandoline would work, too. I threw about two heads of garlic (peeled whole cloves), a whole bunch of fresh dill and a small handful of peppercorns in with the horseradish in my big gallon jar, then laid some small kirby cucumbers on top. I topped the cukes with a layer of horseradish leaves and some more dill and repeated until my jar was just about full. I then poured in some salty brine, topped with a ziplock as I do for kraut and a little coffee filter hat, and I put it all in a dark spot.

It took a day for the clear brine to cloud over. I checked the pickles every day to make sure they weren’t getting funky and to see how fermentation was coming along, and mine were ready in 10 days. I didn’t find them to be particularly crisp, though they were a bit moreso after some time in the fridge. I don’t know if this is a product of using horseradish instead of grape leaves, or if there is only so much crispness that can be preserved during the fermentation process. I suspect the latter, and the pickles are enjoyable and definitely not mushy, and I will make more pickles in the future. Next time around, I will add much more garlic than I did last time around and maybe experiment a bit with other spices, though my personal opinion is that it’s hard to beat the simple combination of garlic and dill when it comes to pickles.

“Next time” implies, of course, that I will ever approach the end of the gallon jar of pickles that is currently taking up precious shelf space in my fridge…

I have been munching on them solo, I enjoyed them immensely with raclette, and last night I chopped them into a variation on sauce gribiche inspired by the inspirational Orangette. I look forward to working the pickles into many a salad and pressed sandwich in future weeks (egg salad and veggie cubanos top the priority list). Perhaps I’ll even be ready to make another batch this glorious cucumber season.


sliced up and picnic ready
sliced up and picnic ready

One response to “Making Pickles

  1. These are my favorite bread and butter pickles. They are what grandma would have made:

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