In a pickle Extricate yourself with these crunchy dill-ectables

Recently I taught a sold-out class titled “Grandpa’s Pickles and Grandma’s Jams.” The highlights were the vegetable pickles. It seems that everyone loves a kosher dill pickle.

There are several ways to pickle vegetables — with salt and with vinegar. My grandfather made delicious dill pickles every summer at his house in Ross, and his neighbors could smell the pungent garlic brine on warm days.

Vinegar-based vegetable pickles are also delicious, and much quicker to prepare. My friends Christine and Mark brought me a beautiful basket of their homegrown vegetables, including fabulous heirloom carrots.

My favorite was the Cosmic Purple variety, a sweet carrot with purple roots and shades of yellow to orange sweet tasting flesh. Although purple carrots have been cultivated in Afghanistan, Turkey and Middle East since about 900 C.E., this variety wasn’t really popular locally until about three years ago.

Blanching the carrots, then macerating them in a slightly piquant vinegar solution, makes for an unusual and delicious pickle.

Grandpa Louie’s Dill Pickles

1 heaping Tbs. kosher salt or coarse sea salt

1 heaping tsp. black peppercorns

2 peeled cloves of garlic

1 Tbs. white cider vinegar

6 sprigs of fresh dill

small cucumbers

cold water

Into the bottom of several quart jars place the salt, peppercorns, garlic, vinegar and three sprigs fresh dill. Fill the jars with small cucumbers. You may want to slice the cucumbers in half in order to have them fit better in the jar. Place three more sprigs of fresh dill on top of the vegetables to prevent them from floating.

Fill jars with cold water right to the brims, put on screw caps and invert jars enough to dissolve the salt. Slightly loosen caps to allow the escape of fermentation gases and brine to leak out. Put jars in a cool dark place, with plenty of newspaper underneath to soak up any overflowing brine.

Leave the pickles for about two weeks. Check them for maturation. At this point, they would be considered half-sour or young, and are ready to eat. For a more intense flavor, let them ferment longer, up to one year. Top off the jars with more brine (1 Tbs. salt per 12 ounces of water). Wipe off the rims and recap the jars tightly. Can or refrigerate the pickles to stop the fermentation process.

Spicy Vegetable Pickles

Makes 4 quarts

3 lbs. total of the following prepared vegetables:

green beans, trimmed and blanched

carrots, peeled, cut and blanched

bell peppers, seeded and sliced

cauliflower, cut into florets and blanched

brussels sprouts, halved and blanched

asparagus, blanched

mushrooms, wiped clean and cut if large

8 large garlic cloves, peeled and whole

8 small, dried chilies, whole

3 cups white vinegar

9 cups water

4 Tbs. coarse sea salt

1⁄2 tsp. black peppercorns

1⁄2 tsp. whole mustard seed

1 bay leaf, crumbled

2 tsp. dried chili flakes, crushed

Pack the vegetables vertically into clean canning jars, and add to each jar the garlic cloves and the chilies, distributing evenly.

Combine the vinegar, water, sea salt, peppercorns, mustard seed, bay leaf and chili flakes in a large, nonreactive pot, and bring to a boil.

Pour the boiling liquid over the vegetables in each jar to within 1⁄2 inch of the rim, clean the rim with a damp towel, cover with hot lids and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Store in a cool, dark place.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at She can be reached at [email protected].