Yes, we were so organized this year we already have our first pickling cucumbers of the season. As we know only too well, we will soon be inundated. These cucumber plants are stealthy fellows. No sooner have you picked a bucket of them, they are making new ones overnight.
How fast can you mix salt and water? That’s the standard brine for our deli-style pickles. The usual formula is three tablespoons pickling salt (or unadulterated sea salt, or kosher salt) for every quart of water. I make about one quart of water for every pound of cucumbers. Then add garlic cloves to taste (my wife says my pickles are too garlicky), some dill leaves and maybe a seed head, a few peppercorns and some fresh grape leaves. The tannin in the leaves helps crisp the pickles. I don’t have grape leaves, so I use leaves off the oak tree that grows at the curb in front of our house.
Place the cucumbers in a crock or a clean plastic bucket with the garlic, dill, peppercorns and leaves. Cover with brine. Cover this with an inverted ceramic plate so that the cucumbers are completely submerged. I usually place a plastic container filled with water on top of the plate to hold it down.
Put the bucket in a dark, cool spot. We don’t have too many “cool” spots around the house this time of year. The stairway to the basement is what I use. Check the pickles every day until they reach the point you like them. We like ours relatively fresh, but with a nice fermented tang. And crisp. For us, this usually takes about five days. Eat the smaller ones first to give the bigger cukes more time to ferment all the way through. (You can pickle them whole or sliced.) Placing them in the refrigerator will slow down the process, but not indefinitely.
Of course you can use less salt for more of a “half-sour” pickle. But in the summer the bacteria are especially active. More salt slows them down a little. You can adjust all of these variables to achieve pickles just the way you like them.
Next, you will need a generous helping of corned beef and cole slaw.