I first wrote about pickling cucumbers last year, and since then I have made many batches of delicious pickles and I think I have perfected my method, so its time to tell you more.
You can pickle any type of cucumbers, but I like to grow the proper pickling cucumber or gherkins. They grow really well in my garden, even when its hot and dry, they do better than other curcubits. I usually get plenty from 2-3 plants. I like to pick them small, around the size of my thumb. Only because when they get too big its hard to fit many of them in the jar! It can be like a bit of a puzzle fitting them all in.
I also grow my own dill to flavour the pickles. It tends to bolt to seed, so I have to keep picking it regularly and I put it in salad if I have more dill than pickles.
I use the recipe from Nourishing Traditions to make the brine for the pickles - 1 cup of water, 4 tablespoons of whey (from raw milk cream cheese), and 1 tablespoon of sea salt. I usually make up one batch of brine for each jar of pickles, its good to have extra, you don't want to be stingy as the the pickles need to be fully submerged.
I put a layer of dill, mustard seeds and peppercorns in the jar, fill the jar with pickles, and then fill the jar with the brine. Then I add more dill, mustard and peppercorns.
In the last post I was confused about how to keep the pickles under the brine. I've solved that one using grape leaves. I was VERY excited when I noticed that our neighbour had a small grape vine. The grapes are terrible, but the leaves are very handy. This year every jar of pickles has had two grape leaves scrunched in the top to keep the pickles under the brine. This is much easier than trying to cut a spacer to fit and apparently this also helps to keep the pickles crunchy.
I leave the jars on the kitchen bench for about 3 days and then I put them in the fridge. They seem to last ok for several months (ours get eaten before much longer than that!).
We like to have the pickles on an antipasto platter, and especially in burgers, or stirred into a casserole (sounds weird, but its really nice). Pete reckons they taste like McDs pickles. I'm not sure if that's a compliment, but it was funny when he said it.