12 September 2013

Cucumber abundance –> dill pickles

Our garden has produced a lot of courgettes / zucchini this year, but it produced even more cucumbers. We didn't know what to do with them all. Cold cucumber-yogurt soup was good, as was sliced cucumber salad in either a yogurt or vinaigrette dressing.

Pickled cucumber spears in vinegar with spices and herbs

But the cukes kept coming. Actually, we had a plan. We wanted to make American-style dill pickles. We had even planted some dill out in the garden for that purpose. So I looked for recipes and came up with several for dill pickle spears. Our cukes grew large, so splitting them into either spears or disks seemed to make the most sense.

The first step in making pickles is to salt the cukes down for 24 hours or so to let them disgorge some of the water they contain. I hope I put in the right amount of salt, and I think I did because I tasted the cukes after their salt cure and they were good.

The cukes after their salt cure, waiting to be packed into jars

Then I boiled up a sufficient quantity of vinegar with different spices and herbs — mustard and coriander seeds, dried dill leaves, allspice berries, black peppercorns, bay leaves, etc. — improvising all the way. When that liquid cooled, I tasted it too, to decide if it was right. It seemed pretty good.

We ended up making nine — count'em, 9 — liters (quarts) of dill pickles. In one batch, I just used distilled vinegar (vinaigre blanc in France) and spices. In the other batch, I added white wine to the vinegar to soften and sweeten it slightly. I read about doing that somewhere, and it said to use about one measure of wine for two measures of vinegar to cut the acidity of the liquid. Some people would put sugar in the pickling liquid, but I didn't.

The salt-cured spears before I poured hot vinegar over them to fill the jars

We hope these are going to be good pickles. On the advice of a friend in Illinois who has a lot more experience with pickle-making and canning than I have (thanks, Harriett), I processed the filled jars in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes to sterilize and seal them. We haven't opened a jar to taste them yet. The recipes said to wait a month or even two before opening the first jar, and that time is now approaching. The proof of the pickle will be in the October eating.


  1. I think you've just solved the problem of our last...
    for the moment...
    Thanks Ken!!

  2. I may have to try these the next time cucumbers are on sale.
    They look so tasty and ready to eat. I love pickles.

  3. Wow! I'd love to taste these pickle slices. You two are such fun! I love following your cooking adventures, especially when you're using your garden goodies.

  4. You are so lucky! I gave up trying to grow cucumbers years ago because of those awful black and yellow striped beetles that spread wilt amount them.

    What proportion of vinegar to water do you use?

  5. I have been reading your blog for a long time. I have an easy recipe that everyone loves. Slice cucumber, red onion, and hot peppers. Make a mixture of one part sugar, one part apple cider vinegar, and two parts water. Pour over the mixture. Can be refrigerated for several weeks. If I have extra tomatoes, I add to the mixture. No cooking anything. The cucumber stays crunchy.

  6. Kristi, I used pure vinegar in the first batch of pickles I made. Then in the second batch I used 1/3 white wine and 2/3 vinegar. We'll see what the result is. Nothing much lost if it doesn't all work out.

    Judy and Virginia, in another few weeks we'll see what the spears actually taste like.

    PJ, I'll have to try that next time I make pickles. I've made them with hot peppers (cayennes) before but they were very spicy -- too spicy.

  7. looks terrific! i grew exactly ONE cuke this year. :-( but in the good news department... i made your classic Lyonnaise salad for lunch. it was terrific. thanks so much for sharing your meals - so many great ideas!

  8. That's a great idea and you will enjoy your cukes for a while to come!


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