As part of my ongoing quest to make everything on my plate I recently started to make my own pickled cucumbers. We had been given a huge bag of organic cucumbers, maybe 2 or 3 kilos, and it was about 30 degrees outside so I needed to move quickly to preserve them or they would wither and be wasted. I had never made pickles so I did a quick search for recipe ideas, then threw together a quick brine and hoped for the best.
The result was only short of miraculous. In just 24 hours I had a crisp and tart pickle, crunchy and delicious with just the right amount of salt. The first batch was devoured within one day and I set about making a second batch. Because of the speed with which they were disappearing, and because cucumbers seemed to keep arriving at the door, I made batch after batch over the following weeks, enabling me to tweak and perfect my recipe.
These are quick pickles that don't require any cooking or specialist canning equipment. They are simply made in the jar. The fermentation does increase the shelf life of the cucumbers a little, but these are not long-life pickles - they need to be kept in the fridge and consumed within 3-4 weeks.
Pickles are incredibly versatile. Use them as a topping in homemade burgers, as an ingredient in cold beet soup or to make a tangy tartar sauce for your favourite fish and chips. We serve them as a crunchy garnish on the side of just about everything, from grilled meats to fried eggs. The acidic bite and salty taste mean that very little other seasoning is needed on the plate.
The essential ingredients in this recipe are the cucumbers, water, vinegar and salt. Anything after that is a bonus and can be adjusted to suit your own taste. My mix gives a hint of garlic flavour without overpowering and the spices are fragrant but subtle. However, if you don't like garlic just leave it out. If you don't have this mix of spices just use whatever you have to hand. Mustard seeds would work well. Caraway seeds would traditionally be used in Lithuania instead of fennel - I just happened to have fennel in my pantry. Fresh dill is also a traditional ingredient in pickles, but I'm not a fan so I never use it. Add a few chilli flakes if you like a touch of heat. My only advice would be to start with very small quantities of whatever spice you're using - you can always add more in future batches if you like your results.
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This article first appeared on www.myfoododyssey.com.
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