This week I have been caught off guard thinking it was still summer. Which, of course, it is and will be for another three weeks or so, but around here you can't take these things for granted. Doing so can be a dangerous mistake, since in the blink of an eye, depending on the year, the cucumbers can disappear. Same with the tomatoes. "But I'm not ready yet," does nothing to change the inevitable, Sweetie.
In my mind, summer's not summer without making some dill pickles. They're so satisfying, and so much tastier than your supermarket-issue brands, and they're really very easy to prepare. So go ahead and whip up a batch of dill pickles before it's too late. You can deal with the sweet pickles tomorrow, tomatoes on the weekend.
I bought my cucumbers in a moment of panic last weekend at the market ("It's already the end of August?") and was ready to pickle them when I realised I was missing a key ingredient: pickling spice. I thought about running to the store and buying some but then it occurred to me I could whip up my own batch using Phillipe de Vienne's amazing spices. What I concocted was leagues better than the usual bland pickling spice which has been sitting on the shelf for God knows how long, but boy, was it strong. I will let you know how it turns out in a few weeks.
The following is the basic dill pickles recipe I've been using for the last few years. I give it my personal touch by making some extra spicy, with the addition of some hot chiles, some extra garlicky.
pickling cucumbers *
head of dill, divided into small bunches
garlic cloves, peeled
5 % vinegar mixed with an equal part water
1 liter canning jars with lids
* I washed my cucumbers and placed them on ice for a few hours, having heard that this produces crunchier pickles.
Sterilise the canning jars and place the snap lids in a small pot of hot water. Bring the vinegar mixture to a boil and keep it simmering while you load up the jars. Take the jars, one at a time, and add the following to each: 1 bunch dill, 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp. pickling spice, 1 Tbsp. pickling salt, enough cucumbers to fill the jar, and vinegar mixture to cover cucumbers. Close the jars and either hot water process them 15 min. or let them sit on the counter overnight. Check the seals and store any unsealed jars in the fridge. Keep at least 3 weeks before opening or the pickles will be too vinegary.
It goes without saying that there are countless variations: more garlic and/or hot peppers, as mentioned above, different spices, ginger, half-sour... If anyone out there has a prize-winning dill pickle recipe that they wouldn't mind sharing, please let me know.