Cool as a Cucumber
Dill Pickle Spears
I supposed I have my parents to blame for The Husband’s addiction to Claussen pickles.
It all started the first time I brought him home for a weekend to meet my parents. Like most guys in their early 20’s, The Husband had a voracious appetite was hungry all the time. As he rummaged through my parent’s refrigerator one evening looking for a snack, he came across a jar of Claussen kosher dills. He was polite enough to ask my mother if he could have one, and then proceeded to eat the entire jar. That was the beginning of a love affair that has lasted nearly 11 years.
I have mentioned in a previous post that a jar of kosher dills rarely makes it through an entire weekend at my house. Even from another room, I can hear him making frequent trips to and from the kitchen, the sound of the cold blast of air escaping from an open refrigerator door, the soft scrape of a metal lid being removed and then replaced from the jar. After a few hours of this, The Husband’s skin begins to smell faintly of dill. It’s a familiar smell that I think even when I’m old and senile will remind me of him.
These pickles that The Husband love so much aren’t exactly cheap and they are the very reason I started growing cucumbers in my garden last year. My hope was to find a knockoff recipe and keep The Husband well-stocked in pickles, at least through the summer. I tested several different recipes and tried more techniques than I can keep track of – soaking the cucumbers spears in salt water overnight, adding a grape leaf to the jar, curing for anywhere up to a few days to a few weeks. Nothing could appease the sophisticated palate of my expert pickle taster. Last summer was an utter failure.
This year I vowed to give it another go. I went back to the drawing board and found this recipe. Sure seemed simple enough – not nearly as labor intensive as some of the other recipes I have tried. I prepared the brine, let it cool, poured the mixture over freshly sliced cukes, and let them sit for a couple days.
The Husband could hardly wait to try them. After the third day I finally gave the okay to crack open a jar. I watched him take that first bite and paid close attention to his face. Sometimes The Husband tries to hide the fact that he doesn’t like something, but his facial expressions always give him away. The anticipation was killing me.
As he swallowed that first bite, his eyes got wide and his face full of excitement. “They’re good! They’re really good!” I grabbed his arm then and leaned in to take a bite. He was right. They really did taste like Claussen kosher dills.
The Husband says they taste better, like they have more of the flavor that he likes from the store bought kind – which I guess would be vinegar and dill? Later on I tried making a batch using just fresh dill heads from my garden and a batch with just dill seeds to see if there was any real flavor difference. Both tasted exactly the same. I would recommend in order to get the crispiest pickle possible, using the freshest cukes possible. Once cucumbers are cut from the vine, they start to loose water and go soggy. Soaking them in salt water can help, but if it’s been a few days since they were harvested I wouldn’t use them for this recipe. Also, if you buy your cucumbers from a grocery store, make sure they are labeled “pickling cucumbers.” Regular cucumbers have a thin layer of wax that could prohibit them from absorbing all that yummy vinegary brine.
Dill Pickle Spears
- ⅓ cup finely minced onion
- 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1-1/2 teaspoons pickling spices
- 1½ quarts water
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 6 heads fresh dill (or 3 tablespoons dill seed)
- 3-6 fresh cucumbers, sliced into halves or spears
- Approximately 3 (1 quart each) clean glass mason jars and lids
- Combine first six ingredients in a medium non-reactive saucepan pan. Heat over medium high heat, stirring frequently until salt is dissolved. Removed pan from heat and allow to cool completely.
- Once brine has cooled, placed two heads of dill in the bottom of each jar. If using dill seed, place 1 tablespoon dill seed into the bottom of each jar. Tightly pack cucumber spears into each jar. Pour the cooled brine over the top, leaving about ¼ inch headspace.
- Screw the lids on each jar. Allow jars to sit on the counter for three days. Gently shake the jar at least once a day. On the fourth day, place pickles in the refrigerator.