I’ve had this mild obsession with pickling for years, since long before I ever mixed vegetables with vinegar. Just like canning fruit, pickling sings of summer and independence to me. Imagine being able to pull out a jar in the winter, when all you can grow are greens, and having homegrown tomatoes or cucumbers. I had fantasies about all the pickles I would stock in my basement. Dinner guests would smile with delight at the crisp tangy vegetables I put before them.
I never really pickled anything until a couple years ago. Why? Well, there is the usual reason of not wanting to try for fear of failing and ruining my fantasy. But also, I think I equated it with a level of homemaker-ness I couldn’t hope to achieve. Like crocheting doilies or something. I don’t think I understood how simple and satisfying it could actually be. Pickling veggies can take as little as a few minutes, and the bright flavor they add to salads and sandwiches is unbeatable.
The one pickle I long to master but haven’t had much success with is the most ubiquitous of all, the standard dill pickle. Maybe it’s because there are so many pickles out there, it’s hard to compare to the tastier, crunchier varieties I can buy in any grocery store. When done right, I know mine will blow any of those out of the water, but I haven’t hit on the right recipe just yet.
It may also be because you have to wait days – days! – for them to finish. How can I know if the ratio of dill to garlic to salt is right when I have to wait days to see the results? And how do I fix it then if it isn’t right? I have only made refrigerator pickles for this reason – not much point in putting up pickles that you aren’t crazy about.
I’ve come close. Last summer I made this one multiple times. It’s quite good, but not insane. But to try something new, last week I made this one from Food in Jars. I altered the recipe a bit because I don’t have spring onions or dill seeds. Also, I thought I’d add one of those dried chipotle chilies I got earlier this year for the pickled asparagus. I think the smoky flavor is a little strange with dill pickles, but D really likes it.
There wasn’t enough salt for me, and the pickles aren’t as crispy as I’d want. And because they go strait into the fridge rather than sitting on the shelf for a couple of days, they don’t have that strong fermented taste. Still, they were fun to make and fun to eat.
I feel like I’m circling the right answer, so I keep trying. There are so many recipes out there, and they’re all a little different. One day I’ll have pickles coming out my ears, and then maybe I’ll have enough to share with friends in January. But for now, I’ll keep experimenting.