“When life gives me cucumbers, I make pickles!”
-Chef Cheryl answering a kindergartner’s question.
The cucumber season is at full tilt, and friends have “gifted” me with over 60 pounds of pickling cucumbers. Bright green, blocky, crunchy fruit that ranges in size from four to six inches long, the perfect type of cucumber for making Old Fashioned Crock Pickles.
Of all the pickles I make, these Crock Pickles are my favorite because the recipe is so easy. Scrub the cucumbers, pack them in a crock or jars, add seasoning, fresh herbs & garlic, cover with brine and refrigerate. In about a month your family will be rewarded with crisp, tasty, finger-lickin’ good pickles.
Cooking for a large group? These pickles are guaranteed crowd pleasers. The recipe scales up simply, and the container travels easily. I know because two five-gallon pails were consumed by happy guests at our daughter’s Ithaca, New York wedding.
The secret to a good pickle is the acidity of the brine. Be sure to use vinegar that it is at least 5% acidity. White vinegar allows the herbs to be the more prevalent flavor; a combination of cider and white vinegar has a more robust flavor.
Salt is another critical ingredient. Don’t use plain table salt; it has a non-caking agent that makes the brine cloudy. Check the labels carefully. Look for pickling salt, canning salt, kosher salt or sea salt.
This recipe was adapted from one that made a barrel of pickles, that’s about 450 pounds. As with most old-time methods, there is plenty of room for creativity of the cook. Add whatever you have in season: garlic scapes, cilantro tops, basil and dill blossoms, hot peppers; all add different flavor dimensions and levels of heat. Just be sure that the brine completely covers the fruit. If the cucumber mass floats, weight down the top with a heavy plate or rock before securing the lid.
These pickles are best if the cucumbers brine for at least a month, and I have kept them for over a year. If your family doesn’t eat them all, individual jars of Old Fashioned Crock Pickles are thoughtful gifts.