The history of pickles goes back more than 4,000 years, during the times of the ancient Mesopotamians. Today, many cultures have adapted them, adding their own preferences and flavors. Additionally, pickles are known for their array of health benefits, including improving gut health and possibly even easing muscle cramps. Though they require a lot of salt, a much-maligned ingredient these days, there's little wonder why this snack has endured through the ages.
While some people assume that bread-and-butter pickles were named for their flavor, they go all the way back to the Depression, where pickles between two slices of buttered white bread was a readily available staple. Bread-and-butter pickle sandwiches were a normal afternoon snack. These days, they're a deliciously sweet and tangy companion to burgers and hot dogs.
Sprinkle salt on sliced cucumbers, yellow onion, and garlic along with seeded red and green bell peppers. Toss them with a couple of cups of ice and let them sit for a few hours before rinsing slightly with cold water. Divide the mixture among resealable glass canning jars and put them aside. Boil a cup of cider vinegar with 1-2/3 cups of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon each of celery seeds and ground turmeric, and 1-1/2 teaspoons of brown mustard seeds in a saucepan. Pour the mixture into the jars and let them cool before storing them in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Gherkins are smaller cucumbers that you can use to make crunchy pickles. One simple recipe involves putting the gherkins in a container with sea salt overnight, to draw out moisture. The next day, remove them to a hot canning jar with some mustard seeds, peppercorns, a sliced garlic clove, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and two celery and bay leaves. Boil 2 cups each of water and vinegar, and pour the hot mixture on the gherkins. Then, seal the contains, and store them in a cool place to cure for 2 weeks.
Pickling lime or calcium hydroxide is a staple in old family pickling recipes. It takes a couple of days for this variety to set, but this is a great method for an excess crop of cucumbers or a lot of big ones. Take out the cucumber seeds before cutting them into French fry strips. In addition to salt and the lime, you’ll need vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, ground cloves, and cinnamon sticks.
Combine 7 pounds of cucumbers with 2 gallons of cold water and 2 cups of pickling lime, stirred until the lime dissolves. Soak the cucumbers for 24 hours. Drain, wash, and soak again in pure water for another 24 hours. Then simmer the lime pickles in a mixture of about 4 pounds of cane sugar, 2 pints each of water and vinegar, mustard, celery, cloves, a cinnamon stick, and a tablespoon of kosher salt. Simmer for an hour, then can.
Sometimes you want something with a bit more kick to put on your sandwiches or tomorrow night's burgers. One quick overnight recipe starts with 5 sliced cucumbers. In a glass jar, add some pickling spices, kosher salt, turbinado sugar, a teaspoon of fresh dill, two smashed garlic cloves, and two sliced jalapeños with seeds. Add to that a cup of white wine vinegar and the sliced cucumbers. Top it with 1-1/2 cups of boiling water. Store in the fridge overnight, and they’ll be ready for the next day.
Kovászos uborka, also known as Hungarian summer pickles, use the sun instead of vinegar for fermentation. Combine 8 tablespoons of kosher salt and 4 tablespoons of citric acid powder to 1 gallon of distilled water to start. While the salt and powder melt, prep the cucumbers by cutting the ends. In a large, sanitized jar, put the dill stems on the bottom and add a piece of horseradish, whole peppercorn, and some garlic cloves.
Put the cucumbers in the jar. Add dill, peppercorns, and horseradish on top, Traditionally, the recipe uses stale bread, which allows the yeast to ferment, but to avoid the mushiness, use cabbage leaves instead. Now add the brine all the way to the top and cover with a plate before placing it out in the summer sun for 6 to 7 days.
Poland-inspired pickles are a delicacy that are easy to make. Like the Hungarian pickles, you use dill, distilled water, garlic, and salt. After combining these ingredients in a container, cover it with a plate and leave it in a cool spot for three days.
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If you’re not into cooking or canning, these kosher dill pickles are ideal. Plus, you only have to wait a few days to chow down. Simply cut the pickles into quarter strips. Layer them with the garlic and dill. In a bowl, combine some salt and cider vinegar, and stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture over the cucumber and seasonings until completely covered. Seal and store in the fridge for four days, until they’re ready for crunchy munching.