A good overnight dill
A couple of years ago, Chili’s began serving house-made pickles with its burgers — in a little stainless steel cup served next to the burger. I love them — I will usually eat them by themselves rather than put them on the burger.
These are obviously what are known as “quick” pickles.
There are several different ways to turn cucumbers into pickles. The original method was fermentation, which does not involve vinegar at all. It’s basically the same method that I now use to turn peppers into hot sauce; the veggies are stored in a salt water brine, which prevents the kinds of bad bacteria that would cause spoilage while allowing good bacteria (specifically, lactobacillus) to work on the vegetable, producing lactic acid as a byproduct. It’s this lactic acid, not vinegar, that gives fermented pickles their tangy taste.
Infused pickles were created as a simpler way of achieving tangy, seasoned vegetables. The vegetables are soaked in vinegar and water, and it’s the vinegar that makes the pickles tangy. Infused pickles are the vast majority of all store-bought and homemade pickles today.
If you’re making pickles at home, it’s common to make a large batch at once — and then use water-bath canning to seal the jars and ensure that they are shelf-stable until they are opened. That works just fine, it’s a great way to use up a large harvest and it gives you pickles all through the year. But in effect, the high heat from the canning process cooks the vegetables, subtly changing the flavor and texture.
A quick pickle, on the other hand, is made in a much-smaller batch and then kept in the refrigerator, since it hasn’t been processed and is not shelf-stable. Quick pickles have their own distinctive flavor and texture.
I cannot stand raw cucumber, and I will pick it out of a salad whenever possible. But I love pickles. It’s kind of strange, but I really love quick pickles, even though their taste sometimes has just a hint of raw cucumber in the background. It’s like one of those exotic seasonings that’s crucial to the taste of a recipe but that you’d hate if you took a straight teaspoon of it.
I happened to see a Facebook ad for a brand of quick pickle seasonings called HomeBrew. There’s nothing magical about these seasonings — you could probably find an online recipe for quick pickles that would work just as well — but I liked the selection of flavors, and they were convenient, pre-measured and inexpensive, and so I decided to order a few different packets.
NOTE: This is not a sponsored or compensated post, and I ordered the product with my own money, through the public website. Views expressed are entirely my own.
The packets are designed to produce a one-pint jar of pickles, which is a good amount to keep in the fridge and use up before they go bad. You add water, vinegar, and (depending on the flavor) sugar, and bring the mix to a boil on the stove before pouring it over your veggies in the jar. Stick it in the fridge for 24 hours, and you have a quick pickle.
The directions call for one large cucumber, but I got what to me was a medium-sized cucumber. I cut it in half crosswise, then cut each half lenghthwise, and lengthwise again, making eight spears, which fit just about perfectly into a pint canning jar. I used the deli-style kosher pickle seasoning (and threw in a few dehydrated hot pepper rings, just because I could).
I also cut up a red onion — I had a little more than I needed, but tried using a slightly larger jar — and mixed up a packet of the pickled red onion seasoning.
The brine for the red onion was not quite enough, as I had feared. But I had a little bit of extra brine from the kosher pickles; I added some sugar to it (the red onion directions called for sugar) and used it to top off the red onion jar.
Both jars, I think turned out quite well, and now I’m anxious to try the other flavors I bought at the same time.
I would give HomeBrew good marks as a convenient way to create a good pickle in 24 hours. Many of the flavors have suggestions for use with different vegetables, not just cucumbers.