Since we just got back from a vacation in Maine, we thought we’d try a dish associated with the Pine Tree State. This is a nice recipe for pickles, especially since it avoids all the downsides of making pickles; you know, the boiling vinegar, the canning jars, the steam from the canning kettle — thinking about all that makes you just want to buy pickles at the store, right? Wrong! As you’ll see.
This recipe was on the back page of the newsletter that we pick up at the CSA each week along with our produce. The front page has a bit of news about the farm, or our rancher, or information about a crop we’re getting in that week’s share, and the back usually includes some recipes that are appropriate for that week’s produce. The week we received pickling cucumbers, there was a recipe for Old Fashion Maine Mustard Pickles on the back. Looking it over, we noted that we had everything except the dry mustard, but we did have mustard seed. While we could’ve ground them into powder, we thought we’d just leave ’em whole. A nice thing about this recipe is that it’s easy to scale up or down, depending on how many cucumbers you have, and how many pickles you want to make. Since only one of us really enjoys pickles, we decided to make a single pint jar. So, let’s scratch up some pickles.
Makes 1 pint
Use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar with 5% acidity. The acidity of the vinegar is what keeps the cucumbers from spoiling, so you don’t want to change it willy-nilly. Use kosher or pickling salt, as these are only salt; no iodine or anti-caking agents, which can make your pickles cloudy or soft.
Wash and cut cucumbers. Select only firm cucumbers, and wash them well to the point that, if you got them at the store, you might want to place them in a colander and pour boiling water over the top to remove any applied wax. We went with the traditional spears.
Pack jar. Don’t pack them in too tightly; you’ll be adding other ingredients in just a bit, so you need some space. And, if need be, trim back your spears so that you’ll have no problem covering them with liquid, and still be able to give the jar a vigorous shake. For only a pint, you might have some cucumber left over. Put it to good use. Or make another jar.
Add dry ingredients. Just measure directly into the jar. Since you’ll be shaking the jar in a bit, it isn’t going to matter which goes in first.
Add vinegar and water. Pour in vinegar until the jar is 2/3 full, then fill the rest of the way with water.
Shake and infuse. Cover the jar and give it a good shaking to dissolve the salt and sugar. Now, set it in a very conspicuous place. We set ours on the cutting board right at the end of the counter. For the next 24 hours, every time you walk by the jar, pick it up and give it a good shaking.
Refrigerate. After 24 hours, your pickles are done; place them in the refrigerator to chill, and test them out.
That’s really simple, isn’t it? It makes you wonder why people would bother to buy pickles, or at least it makes us wonder. After all, using this, or the super easy microwave pickles, you can pretty much have pickles anytime you have cucumbers, with no added colors or chemicals that you don’t understand — just pure pickle goodness. Overall, these pickles are pretty good — spicy with a sweet aftertaste — especially when you consider how little effort they take. Four stars.