The cucumber season is at full tilt, and friends have “gifted” me more than 60 pounds of pickling cucumbers. Bright green, blocky, crunchy fruit that ranges in size from 4 to 6 inches long. The perfect type for making old-fashioned crock pickles.
Of all the pickles I make, these crock pickles are my favorite because the recipe is so easy. Scrub the cucumbers, pack them in a crock or jars, add seasoning, fresh herbs and garlic, cover with brine and refrigerate. In about a month your family will be rewarded with crisp, tasty, finger-lickin’ good pickles.
Cooking for a large group? These pickles are guaranteed crowd-pleasers. The recipe scales up simply, and the container travels easily. I know because two 5-gallon pails were consumed by happy guests at our daughter’s Ithaca, N.Y., wedding.
The secret to a good pickle is the acidity of the brine. Be sure to use vinegar that is at least 5 percent acidity. White vinegar allows the herbs to be the more prevalent flavor; a combination of cider and white vinegar has a more robust flavor.
Salt is another critical ingredient. Don’t use plain table salt; it has a non-caking agent that makes the brine cloudy. Check the labels carefully. Look for pickling salt, canning salt, kosher salt or sea salt.
Big glass jars of these pickles once were a staple on counters at general stores. Part sour, part dill and pucker-up good.
This recipe was adapted from one that made a barrel of pickles weighing about 450 pounds. As with most old-time methods, there is plenty of room for creativity. Add whatever you have in season: garlic scapes, cilantro tops, basil and dill blossoms, hot peppers; all add different flavor dimensions and levels of heat.
Be sure that the brine completely covers the fruit. If the cucumber mass floats, weight down the top with a heavy plate or rock before securing the lid.
These pickles are best if the cucumbers brine for at least a month, and I have kept them for over a year. If your family doesn’t eat them all, individual jars of old-fashioned crock pickles make thoughtful gifts.