My grandmother is a master of pickle preparation. Many of my fondest memories, in fact, are directly linked to her annual pickling production. In the spring, an army of grandchildren would descend on grandmother’s rural home in northern Michigan for the soul purpose of planting rows of cucumbers. They would plant other vegetables too, of course, but cucumbers got top billing.
When the tiny cukes reached between 2-3 inches in length, another army of grandchildren would swoop in again to lend a hand at harvesting. My job was in the kitchen where an assembly line of steamy jars rested on dishtowels. We would pack the jars with sprigs of dill, garlic and the freshly scrubbed cucumbers. Swooping in behind us, my grandmother would pour boiling liquid into each jar. The smell of hot vinegar still lingered as the jars received a water bath to seal the lids tight.
There was no recipe. Yet, in a blind taste test, we all could instinctively separate my grandmother’s pickles from the imitators. While my recipe is quite different from the pickling process I learned in my youth, those memories are still alive and well.
- 6 Kirby or small cucumbers
- 4-6 sprigs of fresh dill
- 1 red poblano or jalapeno pepper
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ½ cup slivered yellow onion
- 4-6 whole garlic cloves, slightly crushed
- 3 tsp. kosher salt, plus 1 Tbl. for cucumber draining
- 1 Tbl. pickling spice
- Leaving the skins on, quarter the cucumbers length-wise. Place cucumbers in a colander, sprinkle with one tablespoon of kosher salt. Toss until completely coated and allow the cucumbers to drain for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, quarter the poblano pepper and remove the seeds. Add the pepper and dill sprigs to a clean glass jar with a tight lid. A crock or glass bowl will work as well. I recommend sanitizing the jar by running it through the dishwasher or dipping it in boiling water before use.
- Rinse the salt away from the cucumbers under colder running water. Shake away any excess water and tightly pack the spears in the glass jar. Leave enough space for a few garlic cloves, onions and the pickling spice when the liquid is added.
- Add the water, vinegar, onion, garlic, 4 teaspoons of kosher salt and pickling spice to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil for about five minutes.
- Spoon as much of the onions, garlic and pickling spices into the jar as you can fit. Pour the hot liquid into the jar to about a quarter of an inch below the rim, submersing the contents. You may have leftover liquid once the cucumbers are covered.
- Allow the jar to cool to room temperature, cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 24-hours. The pickles can store in the refrigerator for up to a month.