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Dillo pickle disaster...welcome suggestions for next year!
Sun Oct 28, 2012 3:13 pmExperienced "Head Chef" Poster
Some weeks ago I asked for and got help for my Deli Dills which were niether fermenting or sending up bubbles. I waited patiently for 2 months and followed the receipe in the Ball Book to a T. After I outlined my situation, Molly suggested they were ready so I canned them. When I tasted one before it was canned it was terribly salty. I thought perhaps the canning process whould mitigate that. WRONG. All 15 pints are inedible.
When I first put the 10 #s of cukes in the ceramic cock, the brine amount given in the Ball Book was not enough to cover the pickles, so I made another batch of brine and poured it in. At that it only covered the cukes by about 1 inch. I placed an inverted dinner plate over them to keep them submerged.
I am hypothesizing that the double batch of brine, while needed to cover the cukes, also doubled the amount of salt.
Unlike cooking, where I feel confident to alter recipes, I'm less confident with the "formulas" for canning.
What should I have done to create more brine to cover the cukes? I want to do this again next year, I don't give up easily!!! Besides I paid a lot of money for a 5 gallon crock and am determined to get use out of it more than an attractive pot for flowers!
I will be taking this up with the people at Ball but am anxious to hear from all of you.
Mon Oct 29, 2012 7:58 amForum Host
I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say. I make great "easy" pickles
Mon Oct 29, 2012 9:33 amExperienced "Head Chef" Poster
Hi Dibbs...are these easy dill pickles dilled for canning? If so, please give me your secret.
Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:54 pmForum Host
From a Lower East Side (NYC) pickle maker named Moe:
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER: The salt to water brine ratio. You have to get this right, because this dictates how the pickles will ferment, and how they will taste. (Too little salt and they will not properly ferment. Too much salt and they will become inedible.) All the other ingredients (dill, spice, garlic, etc.) are to taste-- that's the artistry of the pickle. The brine is the science. If you don't get the science right, the art fails automatically.
All of the sour flavor in traditional kosher dills is developed strictly by the fermentation of the cucumbers in brine.
- Whether the pickles turn out to be new pickles, half sours, or full sours depends only on one factor-- time. The longer the cucumbers sit in the brine, the more sour they will become. If you leave them in the brine too long beyond full sour, they will become unappealingly soft in the middle. The window of time to eat a full sour at peak crispiness is only a couple of weeks. This is the reason it's virtually impossible to buy truly fresh traditionally made kosher dill pickles at the supermarket- even the fresh, uncooked refrigerated versions like Claussen contain vinegar and other preservative agents. (This is easily verified if you look at the ingredient label, as I did)
- Kirby cukes are of course the traditional pickling cucumber. However, Moe advised that as pickle novices we begin with Persian cucumbers. Unlike kirbys, Persian cucumbers give off very little water in the fermentation process and will not throw off the water to salt ratio as much as kirbys can. Once you've made a few batches with Persians with the measurements listed below (and have tasted and gotten used to the proper salt content in a brine), try it with kirbys. You'll eventually be able to judge by taste when the brine is salty enough. My first attempt at making pickles with kirbys turned out great- I added a little additional salt to compensate for the extra water the kirbys would give off.
1 32-oz plastic deli container with lid (you'll see why plastic is important below)
16 oz spring water, room temperature
2 tbsp Diamond Kosher Salt (this brand is important-- not all kosher salt is the same shape and volume will measure out differently, and larger crystals may have a harder time dissolving. If you can't find Diamond Kosher salt, you should know that I weighed mine out at about 20g)
(This part is to taste, so modify Moe's recipe as you see fit)
Approx 2 tbsp pickling spice (more on this later-- not all pickling spice is the same)
If your pickling spice does not contain small whole dried red peppers, add a couple to your mix- 1 to 2 for a mild one, and several more for a less traditional spicy pickle.
2-3 medium cloves of garlic
Several Persian cucumbers (try to find ones that are not too long and will fit comfortably in the 32oz deli container. If they are too long to fit, don't worry-- cut them in half. They will pickle just as well.)
1 sprig fresh dill
1. Add water and salt to plastic deli container. Place lid on tightly and shake vigorously to dissolve salt.
2. Add pickling spice, replace lid and shake vigorously.
3. Add garlic cloves.
4. Inspect the cucumbers. Make sure that stems have been fully trimmed, as these can over ferment and cause the pickles to too easily soften. Pack pickles vertically in the container. The idea is to pack them tightly down into the container, so that they will resist floating to the top. You want to keep them fully submerged in the brine, and they will not want to cooperate. Pickle tips that are exposed above the brine level will not ferment at the same rate as the submerged portion.
5. Lay the dill frond ON TOP of the brine! The dill is not a part of the brine and will infuse its essence as the pickles ferment. This is not to say that you should worry if it submerges on its own (it will, eventually).
6. Loosely place the lid on top-- DO NOT SEAL IT DOWN TIGHTLY. As the cucumbers ferment, they will give off gas which will cause a sealed lid to bulge and possibly pop off unexpectedly. You may wish to poke small holes in the plastic lid to help with ventilation.
7. Leave the cucumbers out on your counter top (or in a window) for one day (I left mine out for two, and it helped to speed up the fermentation though I wouldn't leave it out for much longer). The warmer temperature will help to activate the fermentation process. Remember, placing the pickles in the fridge does not stop the fermentation-- it just slows it down.
8. Place pickles in the refrigerator. You may see bits of white scum float to the top as a byproduct of fermentation. I didn't bother to skim mine as there really was very little, and the results were great. But feel free to skim yours if you like. Rabbi Marcus didn't mention anything about skimming.
And now, the results. Please note that these timetables are specific to my experience in Los Angeles summertime weather-- actual time will vary depending on your climate, room temperature and the temperature of your refrigerator.
In my experience, I have new pickles after 3 days, half sours after about a week and a half, and full sours after three weeks.
And that's Moe's method, in an admittedly overly detailed, ungainly nutshell.
One final note on pickling spice. Moe told Rabbi Marcus that no professional pickle maker makes his own pickling spice-- they all buy it in vast bulk quantities the same general suppliers. As a result, the Rabbi basically told us to go to any store and buy some. This turned out to be a little more of a problem than I anticipated. The pickling spice handed out at the workshop yielded perfect pickles. (I don't know who he purchases from.) But pickling spice mixtures are indeed different, and as I found out after buying a quantity of Penzey's pickling spice, cloves really don't belong in a kosher dill brine. (While their spices are incredibly fresh, Penzey's is a midwestern company, and as such I really shouldn't have expected them to have a proper NY kosher dill pickle blend-- theirs is more suited for a sweet bread and butter pickle.)
I'm still trying to figure out what the perfect pickling spice combination for a kosher dill is. In the blend we used at the workshop, I was able to identify crumbled bay leaves, yellow mustard seeds, whole dried red chile peppers (you get a really lovely, spicy dill if you add several of these) and dried dill seed. However, there were other spices I simply was not able to identify).
Go forth and make Moe's pickles, new disciples
As it turns out, brine pickles are easy. You just need to give them regular attention in the summer heat, when cucumbers are most abundant.
One quality prized in a good pickle is crunchiness. Fresh tannin-rich grape leaves placed in the crock are effective at keeping pickles crunchy. I recommend using them if you have access to grape vines. I’ve also seen references in various brine pickle recipes to using sour cherry leaves, oak leaves, and horseradish leaves to keep pickles crunchy.
The biggest variables in pickle-making are brine strength, temperature, and cucumber size. I prefer pickles from small and medium cucumbers; pickles from really big ones can be tough and sometimes hollow in the middle. I don’t worry about uniformity of size; I just eat the smaller ones first, figuring the larger ones will take longer to ferment.
The strength of brine varies widely in different traditions and recipe books. Brine strength is most often expressed as weight of salt as a percentage of weight of solution, though sometimes as weight of salt as a percentage of volume of solution. Since in most home kitchens we are generally dealing with volumes rather than weights, the following guideline can help readers gauge brine strength: Added to 1 quart of water, each tablespoon of sea salt (weighing about .6 ounce) adds 1.8% brine. So 2 tablespoons of salt in 1 quart of water yields a 3.6% brine, 3 tablespoons yields 5.4%, and so on. In the metric system, each 15 milliliters of salt (weighing 17 grams) added to 1 liter of water yields 1.8% brine.
Some old-time recipes call for brines with enough salt to float an egg. This translates to about a 10% salt solution. This is enough salt to preserve pickles for quite some time, but they are too salty to consume without a long desalinating soak in fresh water first. Low-salt pickles, around 3.5% brine, are “half-sours” in delicatessen lingo. This recipe is for sour, fairly salty pickles, using around 5.4% brine. Experiment with brine strength. A general rule of thumb to consider in salting your ferments: more salt to slow microorganism action in summer heat; less salt in winter when microbial action slows.
Timeframe: 1-4 weeks, depending upon ambient temperatures
•Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket
•Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
•1-gallon/4-liter jug filled with water, or other weight
Ingredients (for 1 gallon/4 liters):
•3 to 4 pounds/1.5 to 2 kilograms unwaxed
•cucumbers (small to medium size)
•3⁄8 cup (6 tablespoons)/90 milliliters sea salt
•3 to 4 heads fresh flowering dill, or 3 to 4 tablespoons/45 to 60 milliliters of any form of dill (fresh or dried leaf or seeds)
•2 to 3 heads garlic, peeled
•1 handful fresh grape, cherry, oak, and/or horseradish leaves (if available)
•1 pinch black peppercorns
1. Rinse cucumbers, taking care to not bruise them, and making sure their blossom ends are removed. If you’re using cucumbers that aren’t fresh off the vine that day, soak them for a couple of hours in very cold water to freshen them.
2. Dissolve sea salt in ½ gallon (2 liters) of water to create brine solution. Stir until salt is thoroughly dissolved.
3. Clean the crock, then place at the bottom of it dill, garlic, fresh grape leaves, and a pinch of black peppercorns.
4. Place cucumbers in the crock.
5. Pour brine over the cucumbers,place the (clean) plate over them, then weigh it down with a jug filled with water or a boiled rock. If the brine doesn’t cover the weighed-down plate, add more brine mixed at the same ratio of just under 1 tablespoon of salt to each cup of water.
6. Cover the crock with a cloth to keep out dust and flies and store it in a cool place.
7.Check the crock every day. Skim any mold from the surface, but don’t worry if you can’t get it all. If there’s mold, be sure to rinse the plate and weighThe biggest variables in pickle-making are brine strength, temperature, and cucumber size. I prefer pickles from small and medium cucumbers; pickles from really big ones can be tough and sometimes hollow in the middle. I don’t worry about uniformity of size; I just eat the smaller ones first, figuring the larger ones will take longer to ferment.
I wonder if you might not be a little happier with half-sours, Meg. Take a look at Pop's Half Sour Pickles for a well-reviewed recipe.
Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:11 pmFood.com Groupie
WOW! even though I'm an experienced canner having lived on a farm and helping put up everything grown, I never mastered pickles nor did i lose any sleep over it LOL B&B were the norm where I lived and I finally had a great recipe given to me for "Redo" pickles which I make occasionally.
BUT, after reading this post and the recipe Moe gave, I'm into trying it again. Not because I really like pickles, which I don't, but because they sound so easy. So, next summer when the Kirby cukes start coming in, I'll give them a try and let ya know how I do. Thanks so much for the post,
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