In a Pickle


My pickles taste gross. They’ve been in the cupboard aging for a few weeks after I canned them. Finally I took them down and had a tasting. Bill actually spit one out. Some became shriveled, others were too sweet, others were good but then they had a bitter yucky aftertaste. I fermented some in salt and a crock, and they are just painfully salty.
I did manage to make some really good sweet pickles (pictured here). It was an 6 day recipe–4 days of boiling water poured over the cucs in the morning, one day of soaking them in a sweet brine (1 quart vinegar, 8 cups sugar, pickling spices, 1 tsp salt), the final day I jarred them up. A sample taken before sealing was delicious.
But I don’t love sweet pickles. Tthe garden is filled with Parisian pickler cucs and Smart pickle cucs so I have to find the perfect recipe for crispy, dilly pickles. Please advise.

13 responses to “In a Pickle

  1. I found this “gem” from a pioneer cookbook from the 18OO’s…. and her name was Mrs Child. But not Julia.

    If you can figure out what the hell alum is, that is the thing that makes them stay crunchy

    Cucumbers should be in weak brine three or four days after they are
    picked; then they should be put in a tin or wooden pail of clean
    water, and kept slightly warm in the kitchen corner for two or
    three days. Then take as much vinegar as you think your pickle jar
    will hold; scald it with pepper, allspice, mustard-seed, flag-root,
    horseradish, &c., if you happen to have them; half of them will spice
    the pickles very well. Throw in a bit of alum as big as a walnut;
    this serves to make pickles hard. Skim the vinegar clean, and pour
    it scalding hot upon the cucumbers. Brass vessels are not healthy
    for preparing anything acid. Red cabbages need no other pickling than
    scalding, spiced vinegar poured upon them, and suffered to remain
    eight or ten days before you eat them. Some people think it improves
    them to keep them in salt and water twenty-four hours before they are
    pickled.

    If you find your pickles soft and insipid, it is owing to the weakness
    of the vinegar. Throw away the vinegar, (or keep it to clean your
    brass kettles,) then cover your pickles with strong, scalding vinegar,
    into which a little allspice, ginger, horseradish and alum have been
    thrown. By no means omit a pretty large bit of alum. Pickles attended
    to in this way, will keep for years, and be better and better every
    year.

    Some people prefer pickled nasturtion-seed to capers. They should
    be kept several days after they are gathered, and then covered with
    boiling vinegar, and bottled when cold. They are not fit to be eaten
    for some months.

  2. If you can lay your hand on a cheap copy of:
    The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich

    This book helped me. With salt brining she adds grape or sour cherry leaves to maintain the crunchiness.

    Your salt balance is important as well as the temperature. Did you measure exact weight, salt and water? If your ambient temperature is too warm that will also make the pickles taste off.

    Also, what altitude are you at? Minimize your processing time in the water bath to the absolute minimum you can safely get away with.

  3. If you can lay your hands on a cheap copy of:
    The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich

    This book helped me. With salt brining she adds grape or sour cherry leaves to maintain the crunchiness.

    Your salt balance is important as well as the temperature. Did you measure exact weight, salt and water? If your ambient temperature is too warm that will also make the pickles taste off.

    Also, what altitude are you at? Minimize your processing time in the water bath to the absolute minimum you can safely get away with.

  4. First, go get a copy of Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation. Then, follow his “sour pickles” recipe. If you want them to be really crisp, make sure you include grape or cherry or some other tannic leaves. And (this is very important) DON’T can them. Don’t can them. Keep them in a refrigerator or a root cellar, fully submerged in their brine, but don’t can them. Canning them makes them squishy and weird and kills all the friendly lacto-bacteria.

  5. I looked in my recipe box and found 3 pickle recipes I used to use back on the ranch. I agree with the gal who said “don’t can” them. Takes the crunch away. I made these and kept them in a crock on the counter or in the frig. Kosher Dills.Make a brine by boiling 3 qts of water + 1 qt of white vinegar + 1 cup salt + 1 tsp alum. Let cool. Pack halved or quartered cukes into sterile jars (I used half gallon ones or a crock), add lots of garlic and dill weed, pour brine over them. Let set for a couple days, will be ready to eat when they taste pickled enough. Store in a cool place.

  6. Novella Carpenter

    thanks y’all.
    i actually did use sandor katz’s recipe (love wild fermentation and the revolution will not be microwaved) and they just weren’t very good. rebecca–where do you live? i’m thinking the pickles got to warm here in northern cal.
    nana–i’ll try it.
    does anyone know where to get a crock? can’t find them anywhere!

  7. I have found old crocks at yard/estate sales and auctions, but if you check any feed/tack store, they carry ones without covers for watering and such. You’ll have to improvise for a cover. My Grandma would use a stoneware plate with a rock on top. They aren’t too cheap anymore, like everything else, but if you figure it’s a longterm investment, it’s not too bad. If you know of any older women you might ask them if they have any to spare. There’s always http://www.lehmans.com/sdx/H21484.jsp
    or ebay.

    Old, usable covered crocks are thought of as collectible thanks to the likes of Antiques Roadshow. But from what I read in your blog, things are less up by you- and you are likely to find one in a friggin dumpster!

  8. Just thought of this- an old electric crock pot, especially if you find the ones where the ceramic liner lifts out.

  9. The crock I use is a Harsch. It’s a bit spendy but they work great.

    http://www.wisementrading.com/foodpreserving/harsch_crocks.htm

    ~will

  10. Novella Carpenter

    will–that crock rocks. oh my god. i’m saving my pennies…in the meantime, frau, i’ll use the crockpot crock.

  11. I’ve seen alum (aluminum potassium sulfate) at Indian grocery stores like the one on Valencia in SF.

  12. I don’t think the heat was necessarily the issue — variations on Sandor’s recipe have worked for me this summer, and I live in West Virginia where it’s been in the high eighties and low nineties for the last month.

    So many things can affect fermentation… I’d give Sandor’s recipe another try. (I tend to like a little less salt in my pickles than he does, so I tend to reduce that salt in Sandor’s recipe by about 1/2 tsp per quart. And to be honest, I don’t always measure.)

    And some of the problem could have come from the canning. I know I said this before, but it’s really a waste to can fermented pickles. (But yes, I know, refrigerators only hold so much, and root cellars are scarce in the city.)

    Around here, people pickle by the signs. The old-timers only start pickles when the signs are above the belt. The grandmothers here will tell you that pickles will always go off if you start them in the wrong sign. You could check out the almanac, and try that…

    Happy pickling!

  13. Novella Carpenter

    Cool, thanks Rebecca!
    I didn’t process the Sandor pickles, just put them in jars in the fridge. Must be them stars…

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