Sunday, July 26, 2009
Crisp Dill Pickles--With Salmon
For 35 years I have tried every recipe I have found to make CRISP dill pickles. I have failed, time and again. I finally gave up and decided that while I could make killer bread-and-butter pickles, and even sweet alum pickles, dills were out of my reach. I bought them at the store. And complained.
I decided to try again this year because we have lots of cucumbers and I love dill pickles. So if the pickles came out wrong, oh well--the chickens could enjoy them.
I searched online and consulted Joy of Cooking, my kitchen bible. A recipe I found online was very like what I found in J of C and seemed easy enough.
I started with the online recipe, which called for slicing the cucumbers and putting them into ice water for two hours. I was okay with that, but I only had four trays of ice and it didn't seem like enough to really keep the cukes cold. What to do?
In the freezer I had a big plank of salmon, frozen solid. Why not put the frozen fish on top of the pickles to add a little extra frost? I put the salmon (sealed in plastic) on top of the cucumber slices, and covered everything with two thick, folded bath towels.
The online recipe didn't call for sprinkling salt over the cucumber slices either but I remembered from past attempts that salt drew the moisture out of the cucumbers and made them crisper. And Joy of Cooking recommended it. So I sprinkled some salt (non-iodized, the only kind for pickles) over the slices beforecovering them with the towels.
After two hours the fish was still frozen. Time to move on to the next part of the process. I drained and washed the cucumber slices, put the salmon back in the freezer, heated water to sterilize my jars, and heated the brine (made with 2 cups vinegar to 1 cup of water and 1/3 cup salt, with 2-3 cloves of garlic for each jar). I packed cucumber slices and stems of dill into the sterilized jars, covered them with the boiling brine (leaving the garlic cloves in the kettle) and screwed down the jar lids.
Today's canning books recommend hot water baths for pickles, but I have never done that. I recommend that you follow the most recent guidelines for canning pickles however.
After two days, we decided to try a taste test. Verdict? CRISPY dill pickles, full of flavor. Success! After so many years of trying, I think I've found a process that works for me. I made another 13 pints this weekend and I am so glad I've finally made good dill pickles.
I think it was the salmon. Although the ones I made yesterday I used frozen steaks...you decide. You think it might have been the salmon that made the difference?
I am pretty sure it was.