Note: Please use pickling cucumbers and non-chlorinated water to ensure your pickles turn out right. Please read Meredith Schultz’s comment at the end of this post for more info.
With Christmas just around the corner, it’s inevitable that we start to think about presents – for ourselves and for others. Other than socks and the like, food glorious food, also make great/popular gift ideas for family and friends – and homemade/homegrown stuff are always the best – they’re more special, and more loved/appreciated.
Regarding homemade goodies – not only are they a fun/smart way to utilize seasonal produce – they’re also a lot tastier because they’re made with l-o-v-e, and more special too because often – the cook(s) will give their unique twist/spin to the recipe – an extra pinch/splash of that secret ingredient – spice/sauce/spirit, perhaps – you get my drift.
You might know by now that I’m a huge/massive fan of pickled/preserved food – from padaek to sauerkraut, pickled onions to salted duck eggs (and even jeow bong – even if it’s not really pickled). What I love the most about pickled food is its “aged/matured flavour/character” and often high salt content. I know – I know – but a man’s got to live a little – and I do try to practice control and moderation as best as I can.
A couple of nights ago, as I was catching up on my food literature (blog) readings via Aussie Food Bloggers, I landed on Lambs Ear and Honey’s recent post which mentioned HotelClub’s post on Australia’s top food blogs of 2014 (congratulations to all the food blogs on the post btw!). On the post, I read Cyn’s (The Food Pornographer) answer to the hottest cuisine of 2014/2015, which included – “American-style barbecue and burgers (complete with giant pickles)”.((1))
Being a pickle fan, the mention of giant pickles made my eyes light up, and I was immediately intrigued and inspired to make this classic pickle of mammoth proportions.
Pickled cucumbers, aka gherkins, or cornichons, or simply “pickles” are one of the most popular types of pickled foods. So popular, that in the U.S. and Canada, the word “pickle” alone almost always refers to a pickled cucumber.((2))
Pickles come in all shapes and sizes (and styles) – and can be found commercially as “cute as a button” cocktail pickles/cornichons, crinkle-cut sweet bread & butter pickles, or more fuller/rounder ones – and now, as I would like to share with you – giant dill pickles too.
Standard pickles are made from a particular species of cucumber – the West Indian or Burr Gherkin (Cucumis anguria), which produces a somewhat smaller fruit than the regular garden cucumber (Cucumis sativus).((3)) Proper pickling cucumbers aren’t easy to come by, and if you’re anything like me whereby sometimes – a cucumber is a cucumber – you’d understand that it makes sense to use the more readily available and still so delicious Lebanese cucumbers to make pickles with instead.
The cucumbers/pickles in this recipe might not win first prize in the giant pickle competition (especially when compared to the pickle pictured below) – but they’re still pretty impressive in size compared to most typical commercial varieties.
Also, when selecting the cucumbers at the store, I had to take into account that they had to fit inside the jars, so the longer Telegraph cucumbers were out of the question if I wanted to keep them whole. Home-grown/heirloom varieties would work perfectly in this recipe also.
The recipe below is adapted from the “kosher” dill pickle recipes provided by David Lebovitz (adapted from Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking) and Cultures for Health. Both recipes are quite similar to each other, and as usual, I added a few alterations to give it my twist. Specifically – I’ve used my own pickling spice mix, which include chili flakes and kaffir lime leaves, which were wasting away in the fridge.
It is interesting to note that “kosher” dill pickles are not necessarily kosher in the sense that they’ve prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law. Instead – they’ve been made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers – with the generous addition of garlic and dill to a natural salt brine.((5))
Because I’ve added a few extra ingredients to the pickling solution, I’m not sure if my recipe still fits in with the “kosher” definition, so I’ve omitted this term from the title. Instead, I’m happy to simply call this recipe – “whole lacto-fermented pickled Lebanese cucumbers”, or “giant dill pickles – ala Padaek”.
Like other lacto-fermented foods – these pickles are rich in probiotics. Not only are they crispy, crunchy and deliciously addictive (not to mention OMG so easy to make) – they’re also excellent for your inner/gut health. The flavour is distinctively different to vinegar pickles, and if you love sour food/snacks (like I do) – these dill pickles are a great option for you.
They will keep well in the fridge and make great appetizers/snacks or accompaniments with meats, sandwiches/burgers, etc. They also make great gifts for all occasions, including Christmas. So what are you waiting for? And while you’re there, consider making extra to share them with your family and friends for Christmas lunch. Also, if you love fried food – pickles can also be battered and fried, which I’ve not yet tried but am now very keen to try!
Before I sign off – I just want to say thank you to all the people/links I’ve mentioned above for the inspiration and guidance with this recipe. Also, talking about Christmas – if you don’t visit this site before Christmas day – I hope you have a very merry one!
And last but not least, for quiz night – the term “pickle” is derived from the Dutch word “pekel”, meaning brine.((6)) Sweet!
Note: Stay tuned for the update post in about 3-7 days time!
- 2 kg of Lebanese cucumber (or any type of cucumber of manageable size)
- 4 litres of non-chlorinated water
- pickling spices (I used 1 tsp of whole black peppercorns, 1 tsp of coriander seeds, 1 tsp on yellow mustard seeds, 1 tsp of allspice (pimento), 1 tsp of caraway seeds, 4 star anise and 1 tsp of chili flakes)
- 10 bay leaves
- 10 kaffir lime leaves
- 6 TBSP of sea salt
- 1 garlic head (about 10 garlic cloves)
- 1 bunch of dill
- In a saucepan, bring 4 litres of non-chlorinated water to the boil. Add the sea salt and the pickling spices (do not add the garlic cloves or dill) and stir until the salt has fully dissolved. Let the solution cool down completely.
- Gently wash and scrub the cucumber clean.
- Cut off the stems and put aside.
- Peel the garlic cloves and trim the roots.
- Wash the dill and trim the stem tips.
- In a large clean/sterilized glass jar, pack in the cucumbers vertically, neatly and tightly.
- Evenly place in the garlic cloves.
- Evenly place in the dill.
- When the pickling solution has cooled down completely, carefully pour it into the glass jar to cover the cucumbers completely. Leave about 3 cm head space.
- Cover the mouth of the jar with a clean cotton cloth and secure with a rubber band.
- Store in a cool, dark place and let the pickles ferment for 3-6 days.
- After 3 days, taste one of the pickles to see if it is sour enough. The longer you let them ferment, the more sour they will become. When the pickles have reached the flavour that you’re happy with, transfer them into smaller jars with resealable lids and place them in the fridge, ready for eating. Serve the dill pickles as a snack or starter, or with your favourite meaty dishes, etc. Bon appetit and Merry Christmas!bigsmile
[]Image Source: Wikimedia Commons. Description: “a large, whole, deli pickle”. Date: 1994. Author: Renee Comet (photographer). Licensing: Public Domain.[]