How to make your own pickles with the pickle kit
by Kara Elder
July 17, 2020
You love pickles. You want a new fun and edible project. May we suggest you make pickles!?
The pickle kit, which some of you got on July 16, is also available for delivery on Tuesday, July 21 + Thursday, July 23. It includes two pounds of small pickling cucumbers, five dill heads, and a head of garlic from the Farm at Sunnyside, plus the spice blend Number 1 Sons uses to make Crispy Koshers. You provide kosher salt, filtered water, and containers to house the pickles — quart-sized glass jars work well, but so do the quart-sized plastic tubs you keep getting from Number 1 Sons. :) If you want to make vinegar pickles, you'll need distilled white or apple cider vinegar. What's the difference?
Lacto-fermented pickles are made with a saltwater brine — this anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment means lactobacillus (aka good bacteria) will thrive and ferment the cucumbers into tasty, tasty pickles. It's a simple process with infinite possibilities: vary the spices or even the type of vegetable being fermented, plus the amount of time spent fermenting, and you can have a wide array of pickled goods. (You know this based on the variety of Number 1 Sons ferments!) Here's a basic recipe to get you started, from Christine at the Farm at Sunnyside.
—> But first, a note on salt. This recipe calls for kosher salt. If you have Diamond Crystal kosher salt, use 3 tablespoons, as directed below. This matters because different salts have different shapes, and when measuring by volume, the amount will vary based on the type/brand. Here's a handy little breakdown from Serious Eats to explain, along with a conversion chart to help you figure out how much salt you need based on your type of salt. <—
To get your pickles started:
Clean two quart glass jars or plastic containers. Dissolve 3 tablespoons kosher salt in 4 cups of slightly warm, filtered water. (Warm water helps the salt dissolve more easily; be sure to use filtered water — chemicals can inhibit fermentation and also impart an off flavor.)
Rinse the cucumbers, then slice in half lengthwise. (Slice again lengthwise to make spears, if you want. Leave them whole if you plan on doing a longer fermentation — see video below for more detail.) Smash and peel as many garlic cloves as you'd like to include (slice or chop them if you want, or leave whole), then divide the cucumbers and garlic cloves between the two jars. Add a dill head to each container, along with a tablespoon or so of the pickling spice. Pour the salted water into each container — the liquid should cover the cucumbers.
—> A tip from Number 1 Sons: You can add a splash of apple cider vinegar to your pickle brine — it helps drop the initial pH of the brine, so that the good bacteria that sour and preserve the vegetables are in a more acidic, lower pH environment in which they naturally flourish. It's not necessary to do at home, says Caitlin, but it speeds up the fermentation process by a few days. The vinegar makes up maybe 1% of the brine, so it's still very much a fermented (rather than vinegar-preserved) pickle. <—
You can either cover and store in the refrigerator to cure, or cover loosely and let sit at room temp to cure. Warmer temperatures = faster curing. Your pickles are done when you like how they taste. :) If curing at room temp, this will probably take two to three days. Store them in the refrigerator and eat within a month or so for maximum crispness. They shouldn't spoil, but rather will turn more sour and soft as they continue to slowly ferment.
We made a video with Justin, who runs the fermentation at the Pickle Factory, so you can see how it's done (and get a little feel for what it's like at PF HQ!).
Vinegar pickles present another option: brining the cucumbers in a vinegar and water solution, with a little salt, sugar, and spices. This is ideal if you like the added tang and bite from vinegar. (You can also do a little bit of both — check out the variation at the end of this Serious Eats recipe.) There are so many ways to go vinegar pickles, too! For a few ideas, check out this post from the Kitchn on making quick refrigerator pickles.
You'll probably have leftover garlic and dill heads. While I assume you know how to use extra garlic, I will let you in on a small revelation for using that dill, which I learned from the Kachka cookbook: get some vodka and plop the dill head into it. (One dill head is enough for 750 ml of vodka; I like to use Luksusowa or the Costco brand for infusing.) Infuse in a glass quart-sized jar for 24 hours, then strain and decant into a bottle. Add 1 teaspoon simple syrup (it helps round out all the flavors), seal, and shake to combine. Serve ice-cold with pickle chasers, or use it to make a killer martini (with pickle juice, but you knew that already).
Go forth and ferment! Let us know if you have any questions.