With all the wacky pickled items out there (Kool-Aid Pickles, anyone?) it can be comforting to cozy up to a jar of good old garlic dills. Am I right? This recipe uses the best of all pickle worlds: a delicate kosher salt brine for natural fermentation, plus a smack of vinegar for a little extra pucker.
Because cucumbers start to lose moisture and soften the minute they are picked, make sure to use the freshest available. Your cucumbers should feel heavy and firm to the touch, with a vibrant green skin. Farmers markets are bursting with Kirby cucumbers right now, and their compact size, relatively low water content and thin skin make them the ideal candidate for your pickle project. So get to a market, and start the pickles that day, if possible.
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
6 dried chilis, such as chiles de árbol (optional)
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 pounds (10 to 12) medium Kirby cucumbers
8 to 10 garlic cloves, smashed
10 dill sprigs
2 16-ounce Mason jars
Test Kitchen Tip
Sterilize your jars.
1. Combine 1/2 cup of water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, coriander and chilis over high heat in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and vinegar, stir to combine; let cool completely.
2. Scrub cucumbers to remove any dirt. Remove any tails or pieces of stem, and cut in half lengthwise. (If you prefer them whole, that's fine. Just expect them to take an additional 3 to 4 days to fully ferment.) Divide cucumbers, garlic and dill sprigs among jars, making sure to pack the cucumbers tightly. Halve any remaining cucumbers crosswise to fill in the gap at the top.
3. Divide brine among jars, making sure to evenly distribute spices, leaving 1/4" gap at the top of the jar.
4. Cover jars with cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band. (This allows good bacteria to enter and keeps out dust and other impurities.)
5. Store in a cool, dark place (a cupboard or kitchen cabinet works great), and try not to disturb. Check pickles after 2 days to see how they are coming along (how quickly they ferment will depend on their size). At this stage, you should have what is called a "half-sour". Let them sit for an additional 2 days for a "full-sour."
6. Place lid firmly on jar and refrigerate; these do not need to be processed again for canning. Store and enjoy for up to 2 months.
Note: Acidic solutions can cause some garlic (especially younger garlic) to turn blue. We know, this is crazy. But the pickles are still totally safe to eat.