PICKLES! Pickles, pickles, pickles!!! Oh how I love them. Just thinking about pickles makes me want to do a happy dance, so just use your imagination to conjure up your best of image of what I do when I actually eat one. And just look at the word "pickle," doesn't it make you want to giggle?
Pickles have been a favorite food of mine since childhood when I used to eat them by the jar. Literally. (As I mentioned before, I am not sure how my mom let me get away with this, or how my stomach could handle digesting an entire jar of pickles. Children are tough.) I would eat all varieties of pickles: Kosher, zesty dill, bread and butter, spears, hamburger slices, and especially those giant deli pickles that they pull out of the huge glass jar at the local sandwich shop. No dill spear was safe from the voracious appetite of The Little Cilantropist. Pickles are an old-fashioned food that I associate with home, and comfort, and a casual, fun sort of eating, and it looks like I am not alone.
Now that I am all grown up (or at least I am often seen masquerading as an adult), I still eat pickles with gusto, although not by the jarful any longer. Instead, I get my fix through pedestrian supermarket-variety pickles and dill spears that accompany the occasional sandwich or cheeseburger when I eat out. Since I think I am a pickle addict at heart, I began to wonder if this was really enough pickle-eating to get by. You see, I have recently felt like something was missing in my life, and I think that thing is The Pickle.
Notice that I used a few capital letters there when I referred to The Pickle. I did that on purpose, to specifically delineate the olive-green, less-than-crunchy, Vlasic-type pickle, from The Bright-Green, Full-of-Flavor, Homemade-Type Pickle. In fact, these homemade pickles really shouldn't even share the same name as those knock-offs crowding the shelves of giant supermarket chains; but alas, a pickle by any other name might not really be a pickle at all (plus, I don't actually have any power or influence to change the names of foods), so for now these are Pickles with a capital P.
And also for now, I am going to do everything with the little power that I do have (which is really just these words on my tiny little webspace) to convince you that if you have even the slightest liking for pickles, you should absolutely give one of these recipes a try. When I ate one of these I think my world shifted a little bit, to become more pickle-centric.
Starting out with bright, fresh pickling cucumbers ensures you get a hearty crunch that is often sorely lacking in those mass-produced varieties. Additionally, all of the fresh herbs and spices mean your pickles truly have a beautiful, appealing flavor instead of just sodium and preservatives. And making them yourself really couldn't be easier, so you can enjoy a fresh pickle any time.
So which ones should you make? When I decided that Pickles were missing from my life and I went in search of recipes, I couldn't decide on just one type; naturally, I embraced that indecisiveness and made two different varieties (actually three if you count the pickled onions). The first recipe I came across was Nicole Dula's Refrigerator Dill Pickles; looking at her recipe was actually the moment when I realized that I just had to have pickles. I liked her recipe since it didn't require any cooking of the cucumbers, and it seemed quick and easy. Browsing through some other sources, I noticed that one or two bloggers also mentioned they enjoyed Deb's Pickled Red Onions; of course I navigated over to her site and was immediately sold by the bright pink color. And lo and behold, Deb also had some amazing looking Bread and Butter Pickles! I quickly decided that I would have a little pickle party and just make all three recipes.
I have to say that I was just tickled (or pickled) pink with all three recipes. The dill pickles and the onions were sour in a way that was intense but not mouth-puckering, and the bread and butter pickles had the perfect amount of sweetness for my liking. Since I have never made homemade pickles before, I made each of the recipes almost exactly as they were originally written, and I simply included the links along with some notes on any small changes or suggestions below.
Without a doubt, this first pickle-making party was a smashing success, and it definitely re-awakened my previous obsession. When the scent of the pickles wafted to my nose, The Little Cilantropist in my head resurfaced and urged me to eat the whole jar (especially those bread and butter ones, they are like crack); unfortunately for me, the pickles were destined to make an appearance at a friend's barbeque, so I had to restrain myself. Next time, I will make an extra jar that has only my name on it. I know, "sharing is caring," but The Little Cilantropist hasn't quite learned that yet, and she is in charge when it comes to pickles.
Bread and Butter Pickles
I used the recipe exactly from Smitten Kitchen, and I definitely won't change a thing when I make them the next time; these pickles were perfection! By Deb's recommendation, I only used 1/2 cup of sugar because I like bread and butter pickles to be sweet, but not too cloying. I made these in the morning, for a barbeque that was in the evening and they were perfectly pickled. This pickle recipe needs a little hands-on time, since they are salted and chilled first, and then cooked and cooled; they are not hard work, just different from the "refrigerator" type pickles.
Refrigerator Dill Pickles
I adapted this recipe from Nicole over at Dula Notes, and they are your traditional dill version. The dill taste was incredible, although the peppers I used for my recipe were not spicy enough; Nicole used jalapenos, so just adjust which peppers you use to your own tastes. These pickles require no cooking time-just throw all the stuff in the jar and stick it in the fridge. I let my pickles sit in the refrigerator for just under 24 hours (this was not what she recommended, just my time issues), and they were still a little over-crunchy for my tastes. I think the 48-hour mark would be the perfect time to eat these, and Nicole says they keep for 1 month. Mine didn't last that long so I can't tell you if she is right! Also, rather than slice mine into spears, I sliced them hamburger style.
Pickled Red Onions
I adapted this recipe again from Smitten Kitchen, and I ended up using the pickled onions to top hotdogs, burgers, and sandwiches. They were delicious and unique, and I would definitely make them again since they are silly easy. I followed the recipe Deb listed, but I used all red wine vinegar (she swapped half of hers for white), and I used a few squirts of Sriracha sauce instead of Tabasco. Sriracha is potent stuff, so if you don't have it or don't like things spicy, use something else.
**I didn't preserve any of these pickled treats by canning them, but feel free to do so if you like.