As you may have been reading, lately I’ve become a bit obsessed with curing food. I’ve made bacon (and successfully done it a second time) and duck prosciutto which both turned out well. From reading through Ruhlman’s Charcuterie I’ve found it amazing what salt can do. Behold the power of salt! Ok, next up in the salt lessons, simple brine. Salt and water. And yes, there’s a ratio for basic brine. What can you do with brine? Lots of things, but for starters since I’m easing my way into this whole curing thing I thought I’d make some simple dill pickles. All you need is salt, water, cucumbers, some dill, and patience.
Making these dill pickles is very, very easy. Make sure you buy fresh pickling cucumbers; you’ll get a better crunch from them. The ratio for a basic brine is 20 parts water to 1 part salt. That’s a 5% solution. Not quite the percentage Sherlock Holmes might use but one which is elementary enough to make your pickles (Cheryl is going to kill me for that ridiculously obscure reference and pun). There’s no vinegar or special pickling spices in this particular pickle recipe so you’re not going to get that sharp tangy taste. Rather, you’re going to get more of a pickle like from that big barrel in your local grocery’s deli section. You know the one. It sits next to the rack of bread by the corner of the deli counter. You want to take a pickle out of there but you’re scared to. They look so good but you don’t know what’s going on with that barrel or how long they’ve been there or whose hands have been dipping into the briny solution. It’s ok, everyone thinks that. The good news is this recipe gets you that pickle without having to fish around in the barrel.
These homemade pickles turned out pretty good. Not too salty, not too dill-y, with a good crunch. Cheryl thought they were very flavorful but I think they could use some more flavoring. As far as being able to eat with a sandwich though, these work just fine. For an entry-level point to using brine this was pretty simple, but it’s a good kitchen experiment to further acquaint yourself with the power of salt. Baby steps! You have to learn how to walk before you run.
Dill Pickles made with Basic Brine
- 50 grams kosher salt (about 3 ½ Tbs)
- 1 Liter water (that’s Liter, yes we’re going metric with this one since it’s easier to calculate the ratio)
- Dill, trimmed
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 lb pickling cucumbers cut into spears
For the brine: Combine the water, salt, garlic and as much dill as you want in a saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure all the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Put the cucumber spears into a nonreactive container large enough to hold them submerged in the brine. (When the brine was cool enough I put the dill and garlic in the bottom of my container and put the cucumber spears on top, then poured the brine in.)
Pour the cooled brine over the cucumber spears making sure they’re completely covered. Take a small bag and pour some excess brine into it. Place bag on top of cucumbers in order to weigh them down and keep them submerged. Like this:
Place in refrigerator and allow to sit for a week (or more).
Strain the brine, bring to a boil and allow to cool (again) and store the pickles in the brine.