Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bread & Butter Pickles

My last attempt at pickling was a reasonable success; great flavor, but less than desirable texture. A bit of post pickling research revealed that the method I used (lacto-fermentation) will typically result in a softer texture. I prefer my pickles to have more crunch to them, and the sweeter "bread and butter" variety are a favorite of mine, so that's what I'm trying to make this time. The brine used here is very different from my previous batch, which was just salt and water. This brine is based on vinegar and includes sugar as well as a variety of spices. One other big difference is that the salt water brine is poured over the cucumbers at room temperature, while this vinegar brine is poured while still hot. Lastly, this recipe goes straight in the refrigerator for a week, while the salt water method sat on the counter for just 2-3 days to complete the pickling process. The recipe I used below is a slightly altered version of this one from Alton Brown.

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1/2 of a sweet onion, thinly sliced
2-3 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon pickling spice

Pickling spice is a blend of spices that add a lot of subtle flavors and aromas to your brine. The spices in the blend are whole and the type and ratio of spices can vary with the different blends that are available. I went with McCormick Pickling Spice that contains cinnamon, allspice, mustard seed, coriander, bay leaf, ginger, chilies, cloves, pepper, mace and cardamon (whew!). I'm sure that serious picklers make their own blends, but store bought is fine for me!

Combine onion and cucumber slices into clean mason jars (I needed two 24oz jars to fit everything). You want the jars full, but not packed too tightly. In a small saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices and then bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow time for the spices to infuse into the liquid. Carefully pour the hot pickling liquid into your jars with the cucumbers and onion slices, completely filling the jar. I always make a mess when trying to pour slowly out of a pan, so I first transferred the hot liquid to a quart sized measuring cup so the spout would make control of the pour easier. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature before closing the tops of the jars. Refrigerate the pickles for a week before trying. They should keep for about 2 months in the refrigerator.

The brine smelled fantastic as I poured it in the jars, and I have a good feeling that these bread and butter pickles are going to be really good. Check back in a week or so and I will update with the results.

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