Years ago, good friend told me that when you have that feeling that you don’t know what you’re hungry for, it’s a pickle. I couldn’t agree more. If I had to put together my last meal, you can bet it would include a pickle.
I have the great opportunity to go home next week and spend Father’s Day with my dad. Who, by the way, is literally the hardest person in the world to shop for. He’s not a sports fan. He doesn’t wear ties. He golfs and grills and owns a classic car, but every gift you could possibly think of related to those things, I’ve already done (probably more than once.) So this year, I’m thinking outside the box. Being far away, I like gifts that remind him of me. (And don’t say digital picture frame. Christmas 2009. It’s still in the box.)
Of course, I’m thinking about food! With summer just around the corner, I thought it would be cute to do a little homemade condiment gift set and a gift certificate to his favorite local market.
So last night’s project was the pickles. My very dear friend and fellow foodie Michelle introduced me to Joan’s on 3rd, an amazing restaurant and market near Beverly Hills. They’re known for their pickles, and I absolutely know why! They’re fresh, crisp, dilly, salty and a little bit sweet – everything you want in a pickle. She packs them up with fresh, crunchy slices of white onion that not only serve to further flavor the brine but are delicious on their own.
For Christmas last year, I decided to decode Joan’s recipe, and while they came out pretty spot on, I made a few variations this time around that fit my preserved method: Joan makes refrigerator pickles, mine are shelf-stable, so they have the time to absorb a lot more flavor. And in my experience, garlic and chili flakes never hurt anything.
Feel free to try my variation, or experiment with your own! And here’s to hoping Dave, the best dad in the world, has a very Happy Father’s Day!
P.S. If you’re new to canning, visit this great canning website.
Yeilds about 4 pints
6 cups cucumbers, sliced (I prefer Persian or English because they’re a little bit sweeter and thin-skinned)
2 cups thinly sliced white onions
1+1/2 c sugar
¼ cup kosher salt
2 T juniper berries
2 T yellow or black mustard seeds (or any combination)
2 T fennel seeds
¼ cup dried dill
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T (or more!) red chili flakes
3 cups cider vinegar
2-1/2 cups water
Fill a large, deep pot with water and set to simmer. Place clean jars and rings in the pot and keep them in there until ready to fill (set aside lids.) Place everything (except cucumbers and onions) in a separate pot and bring to a boil. Keep at a rapid simmer for 10 minutes. Taste to adjust flavor to your liking, but keep in mind that flavor will develop over time. And be careful, there is nothing worse than a deep breath in of vinegar steam. Believe me.
Remove jars from pot and increase heat to high and bring water to a boil. Fill jars with cucumber slices and onions, leaving about ½ inch from the rim. Transfer vinegar mixture to a Pyrex measuring cup (or something heat-safe with a spout) and pour over cucumbers, leaving a ¼ in space from the rim. Using a thin knife (or I prefer a chop stick) run it around the inside perimeter of the jar to release any air bubbles. Using a damp paper towel, wipe the top edge of the jar and place the lid on top. Screw on the band until just tightened and place right-side up in the boiling water, making sure there’s about 1 inch water above the top of the jar. Boil for 10 minutes.
Remove jars and place on a towel in a temperature-neutral location. Eventually, the top of the can will get sucked down and you’ll hear a little pop. That means the jar has properly sealed! If you can still push the top and it pops back up, it has not properly sealed. You can try to replace the lid and reseal, or just keep that jar in the fridge.
Pickles will keep unopened about 6 months, and about 2 weeks after opening.