elusive dill pickle

I glance at the cucumber vines out of the corner of my eye every time I’m in the garden. I’m afraid that they’ll suddenly be consumed by whatever fungus has attacked their lower leaves since early June. But they’re still there.

Since I don’t know how long I’ve got with my cuke vines, I decided to try yet another batch of ‘fresh’ dills. Actually half-sour deli dills. They’re meant for refrigerating rather than preserving in canning jars.

So after coming across another half sour dill recipe, one that called for putting them straight into the fridge rather than sitting them on the counter for a few days, I decided to give that a try.

I grabbed supplies…

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cut up the cucumbers and garlic…

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… and I always put a grape leaf in the jar, whether the pickles are fresh or canned. They contain tannins that keep pickles crisp. It absolutely works.

I packed the cukes into a container with the dill, garlic, spices and salt water. You have to weigh down the cukes so they’re under the brine. I cover mine with cheesecloth to keep flying creatures out. With previous recipes, I let the jars sit on the counter for three or four or 10 or 20 days, depending on how radical I felt. After that they went into the fridge till they were gone or got pitched.

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I tried so many pickle recipes last year that my head was spinning. I determined that I only sort-of like fully fermented pickles, the kind with long fermentation times. They have a very unique taste, really complex, that no one else in my family cares for.

But I’m looking for a different, very specific taste; fresher, like the dill slices that come in wax paper when you order a Reuben at the deli.

We’ll see.

I’d post the recipe, but I forgot to note where I grabbed it, and don’t want to poach anything. If you’re interested, just Google ‘half sour dill pickle recipe’.

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As my brain makes random associations, I generally take off the leash and let it run. Recipe for disaster.

Whether or not to save cucumber seeds? Mmm, probably not this year anyway. It would be a real chore to isolate the picklers from the slicers, and even if I did, there’ve been a few disease problems with my vining crops in recent years. I don’t want to chance losing a whole year’s worth of vine crops just to save my own cucumber seed.

Brain click…whirr…cucumbers…recipe…pickles. And away we go.

Pickles have been a bit of an obsession in recent years. Constantly trying new recipes, even delving into fermentation a little. (Loved the sauerkraut, especially the red stuff). There have been some really tasty dill pickle recipes too. But I can’t say that I’ve found the magic Kosher dill; the one that says ‘You have it, Dan. The Holy Grail’. This summer I’ll share the recipe for my favorite so far, but come on, it’s too cold here to do that now, and who wants a recipe for someone’s favorite, almost-great pickle anyway?

Fermented pickles, I’m not so sure about. They have an interesting taste, different from canned pickles. Varying fermenting times yield different flavor. I’m pretty sure that they’re not flavors for my palate. I ate a lot of fermented pickles this summer, different recipes, different fermentation times. It’s a distinctive taste, pretty complex. But probably not for me. My favorites are the 3 or 4 day old deli pickles, but you can’t save that taste for January.

And then the canned Kosher dills. That’s the recipe that I quest for. Something to brighten the winter.

When you think of Kosher dills, you probably envision a nice long quarter-cuke or a big-fat-hog-salami of a pickle. But last year I found that the jars I treasured most were those full of whole small cukes, dill gherkins. Just a perfect amount of pickle to get your Kosher pumping, but not an intimidating blimp that can’t be comfortably downed in one sitting.

Brain click…which leads me back to seeds and such. I’ll probably plant my pickling cukes more closely than usual next year, and plant more of them. With good fertility I think they’ll be fine, giving me more of those thumb-sized gherkins that rock my world. That way there’ll be more chances of a flush of baby cukes at the same time. Just gotta keep em picked.

Maybe there really is a point to this post. And we’ll pretend that it’s this; garden decisions you make now can affect what you’re having for lunch next January.

So there’s my brain on…nothing. Hope that didn’t frighten you. And you should not let me dissuade you from trying fermented pickles. It really is an intriguing taste. I can see why some people might have them at the top of their list.

A final pandering; if you’ve made a Dill pickle to die for and want to share it with us, I’ll kick in a free pat on your virtual head as grand prize, fees and taxes included.