I hate food waste. I’ve been dabbling with fermentation for the past few years as part of my general interest in food preservation techniques. I’ve made a variety of different fermented foods over the past few years, but my favorite remains the first thing I tried — plain garlic dill pickles.
It’s a common refrain in the fermentation communities I’m in that people seem to have trouble with their pickles going mushy, and I believe I’ve nailed this problem. My pickles are consistently crunchy, and have remained so after many months of storage in the fridge. Here’s what I do:
- Start with crunchy cucumbers. Kirbies are the best for making pickles, and really the only kind I’ll use anymore. They can be difficult to find in supermarkets (but increasingly less so), and you want ones that have not been irradiated. Your best bet is to go to a local farmer’s market.
- Trim the tips out. I’m told that the stem end can harbor a fungus that can make pickles mushy, even in very fresh pickles, so this should definitely be removed. I’ve found that trimming out both ends helps the brine penetrate better, so I do that. I use a Chef’n Tomato Corer, which makes it very easy to carve out a small wedge from the end.
- Pre-soak in ice water and calcium chloride. I do this in the jar I ferment them in, for about 30 minutes. I use 1 tsp of Pickle Crisp for a gallon jar. I’ve never seen this recommendation anywhere else, but I find that including the calcium chloride in this step does make a difference.
- Pour off the ice water and add more pickle crisp to the jar (again, 1 tsp per gallon), along with wine tannins, which are made of crushed chestnut shells. That package will last a looong time, I use only 1/4 tsp for a gallon jar. A common suggestion is to use grape, oak leaves, or tea bags to add tannins, but I’ve found this powdered wine tannin to be very convenient and it produces a pleasant product. Tannins do not serve to keep the pickles crunchy, but they do add a nice puckery mouthfeel.
- Layer the cucumbers with bunches of garlic and fresh dill. There’s really no right or wrong amount here. This is all about flavor.
- Mix a brine of 2.5 tbsp pickling salt to each quart of water. A gallon jar usually needs about 2 quarts of brine…