Kevin West teaches us how to "capture the fabulous essence of each season by preserving it" with Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving. Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt also loves this book for West's storytelling talents, as the 200+ recipes are accompanied by entertaining, educational stories and essays.
Cucumber dill spears and chips
Yields 2 quarts
On page 39, I explain that processing your pickles in a hot-water bath rather than a boiling-water bath will give you a firmer texture. It follows that if you want pickles with real snap, don’t process them at all. These dill-pickle spears—or sandwich chips, depending on how you slice them—can be processed, if you want, for long- term shelf storage, but first try making a batch to keep in the refrigerator. They will be crisp, and the flavor of raw cucumber comes through. It’s the freshest-tasting pickle in this book, and perhaps my favorite. The recipe can be scaled up.
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 6 cups lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 3 large flowering dill heads (4 inches across)
- 3 pounds Kirby pickling cucumbers
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 cups white-wine vinegar
1. Dissolve the salt in the water, and add the coriander, fennel, and dill. Set aside.
2. Scrub the cucumbers well, rubbing off any spines. Cut away a thin round from the stem and blossom ends, and slice lengthwise into quarters. Put the spears in a large bowl, and cover with the brine. Weight the cucumbers with a plate, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 24 hours. If the bowl won’t fit in your refrigerator, it’s fine to leave it out at room temperature.
3. The next day, pack the cucumber spears into two scalded quart jars, saving the brine. Measure out 2 cups of the brine and reserve. Strain the remaining brine through a fine sieve to capture the aromatics, and divide them between the jars. Tuck a dill head and two cloves of garlic into each jar.
4. Mix the vinegar and the 2 cups reserved brine, and bring to a boil. Pour it over the pickles to cover. Seal the jars, and store in the refrigerator for a week before using. For long-term shelf storage, leave ½ inch headspace when filling the jars, then seal. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes, or in a hot-water bath, between 180 and 185 degrees, for 30 minutes.
[Note] Instead of spears, you could slice your cucumbers into round coins, lengthwise “slabs,” or bias-cut ovals. Make the slices 3?8 inch thick and soak them in the brine for 12 hours instead of 24.