Revised on August 7, 2014:
Deli-style Kosher Dills, like the ones you get at any respectable delicatessen, are a “must” on my list of foods to make and preserve. Since gherkin cucumber season is winding down, I’ve got to get to the farmers market early to make sure I get enough. Twelve pounds of gherkins will get my family through a winter of “Sandwich Night Wednesdays” plus the occasional packed lunch with a few more quarts to give away to those friends and families who prize pickles as much as I do. If you have attempted the Half Sour, be brave and take that next step— Deli-style Kosher Dills. It’s actually quite easy— time and microbes do most of the work. For a quick overview of the fermentation process, check out Fermentation Pickling Primer. I add currant leaves to my kosher dills while they ferment. Not only do they impart a unique and wholly enjoyable smoky flavor, but currant (grape and sour cherry) leaves also contain an enzyme which keeps the cucumbers crisp as they ferment. If you don’t have a currant bush, grape vine or sour cherry cherry tree, ask your farmer. Currants grow everywhere in Wisconsin. In my postage stamp garden, I have 7 currant bushes. They grow with little care and in the shade, which perfectly suits my gardening style and garden.
#1–Gather all the ingredients and equipment:
Ingredients for Fermenting
- About 3 ½ lbs. pickling cucumbers (3 –5 inches), blossom ends removed
- 6 large sprigs of fresh dill
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 T pickling spice
- About 12-15 currant or sour cherry leaves (Optional)
Ingredients for the Brine
- 1 gallon water
- 3/4 heaping cup salt
- 1/2 cup vinegar (5% acidity)
Equipment for Fermenting Pickles
- 6 quart vessel– The picture above shows other vessels I like to use when fermenting more or less cucumbers. Any non-reactive container is fine.
- Food-grade seal-able plastic bag (like a Ziplock storage) large enough to keep cucumbers submerged
#3–(Optional) Soak the cucumbers in an ice water bath for 6-24 hours to maximize crispness. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but if they are straight from the garden or farmers market, it does help to remove the field heat and keep them crisp.
#4–Prepare a 5% brine solution–4 quarts water + 3/4 heaping cups canning salt + 1/2 cup flavorful vinegar (optional). Thoroughly mix until the salt is dissolved. Add a portion of the brine–about 1 quart–to a strong, food grade plastic bag and seal. I use 1 gallon Ziplock freezer or storage bag. This is your weight to keep the pickles submerged.
#5–Add the cucumbers, dill, garlic spices and leaves to the vessel with the 3 quarts of remaining brine. Place the sealed bag of brine on top of cucumbers making sure that all of the cucumbers are completely submerged. It is necessary to keep them submerged so they are in an anaerobic environment. Fermentation and lactic acid can only occur in an anaerobic environment.
#6–Check pickles every few days skimming off the white scum. The pickles should be ready in about 2 weeks (no more than 4). You’ll know they are done when they are a uniform olive green and taste like a pickle.
#7–Remove the pickles from the brine and rinse off any yeast. Strain the brine twice: First in a colander to remove spices and herbs. Second, through a coffee filter to reduce cloudiness. Store pickles in the brine in the refrigerator; they should keep for about a year. (See directions for canning the pickles below).
Cooking with Kids: I let the kids do most of the work with making pickles. It’s perfect for them. It involves lots of washing, water, mixing and measuring. Other than measuring the correct amount of salt, this isn’t precision work, nor does it involve knives or fire. I also let them skim off the yeast and mold over the 2 – 3 weeks it takes for the pickles to ferment. They especially love this task for unknown reasons. I’m guessing the “Yuck Factor” plays a role or maybe it is just the miracle of witnessing something appear from seemingly nothing.
DIRECTIONS FOR CANNING YOUR FERMENTED DELI-STYLE KOSHER DILLS
STEP 1–Gather all your ingredients and canning equipment:
Ingredients for Canning
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- Crushed red pepper flakes or whole hot pepper (optional)
- Mustard seeds (optional)
- Sprigs of fresh dill
- Fermented pickles
- Filtered brine or freshly made brine—¼ cup salt : 2 quarts water : 2 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
Equipment for Canning
- Hot-water bath canner et al. (Follow this link for a complete list and guide)
- 1 quart jar for every 1.5 to 1 pounds of cucumbers
STEP 2–If you have not done so, filter brine through a coffee filter. Next, boil for five minutes. If you do not like a cloudy brine, you may make new by combining ¼ cup salt : 2 quarts water : 2 cups vinegar (5% acidity) and boiling this for 5 minutes. I sometimes use a combination of fresh and fermented brine. STEP 3–Meanwhile, pack pickles into clean, hot, canning jars along with 1 – 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced and ¼ t crushed red pepper or 1 t mustard seeds and fresh dill.
Copyright Notice: Local Global Kitchen images and original content are copyright protected. Please do not publish these materials without prior consent.