“bubbie’s” pickles

today the alaskan and portlandian in me converged. i put on my xtra-tuffs and rain gear to bike down to the farmer’s market. but not just to shop around for groceries, i had a mission to get as many pickling cucumbers as i could.

i ended up biking home with six pounds of little cukes ready to turn into pickles. i’m sorry this recipe is coming so late in the year with cucumber season at its end. finding these cukes was a challenge as there was only one booth that was selling them and i took their whole stash. but never fear, you can use the widely available english cucumbers to make spears or chips if the tiny variety isn’t available to you.

i hope that you all by now have had the privilege of eating a bubbie’s pickle. they are by far the best pickle out there on the market. i’m not sure why but it might have to do with the fact that rather than using the quick pickling method of using vinegar, these pickles go old school and are fermented. the bonus is that your pickled will be among the best you have ever eaten, maybe even better than bubbie’s. the negative is that is takes at least a couple weeks until you can eat them. but it’s worth every second. you can also try them along their journey and choose when they are just right, participating in your little science experiment.

last year, while on the topic of pickles (yes, pickles is a conversation topic for me), my co-worker told me he was going to make bubbie’s pickles that evening. you cannot imagine my excitement in hearing this… until i found out that bubbie’s was just yiddish for grandma and he was planning on using his grandma’s recipe.

my hope was reignited a few weeks ago when i found a website with a recipe that mimics bubbie’s pickles! you can find the original here at the herbangardener. as soon as i had the time i biked myself down to saturday market and picked up (what i thought was a lot at the time) three and a half pounds of pickles. bubbie’s pickles go for about six bucks for a quarter gallon jar so imagine my excitement when i spend six dollars in order to make four times as many.

i wanted to give you the recipe sooner but i felt the obligation to give my pickles the time they needed to mature so i could tell you how it worked out. i don’t want to just post recipes on here without trying the food that comes out of them. result: delicious, but with a bit too much garlic, though not too much to keep us from downing ten pickles for a snack. the garlic amounts i used are rectified in the recipe below.

you’ll need either one glass jar that holds a gallon, or two half gallon glass jars. glass is key.

“bubbie’s” pickles
makes 1 gallon jar full

3 to 4 pounds pickling cucumbers (english cukes cut into chips or spears is fine)
6 tablespoons non iodized salt (i used fleur de sel, how ridiculous am i?)
1 1/2 to 2 heads of garlic, somewhere in between roughly chopped and minced
4-8 fresh grape, cherry, or oak leaves (optional)*
3 1/2 tablespoons whole dill seed
2 tablespoons whole coriander
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

soak the cucumbers in cold water for an hour or two to give them as much moisture as possible.

when they have finished soaking, dissolve the salt in a half gallon of warm water (tap water is fine). set aside.

here’s the fun part: peel and chop your heads of garlic. i recommend pulling a chair up to the table and doing it there. it takes awhile. combine your spices with the garlic and place in the bottom of your jar. if you are using two jars divide the garlic spice mix as evenly as possible.

place your cucumbers on top of the garlic and spices. this is kind of like a puzzle as you want them in as tightly as possible so that they all fit. if you are using leaves, place them at the very top.

when the jars are full of cucumbers pour the saltwater over them. you want the cucumbers to be completely covered with water or they will mold. to keep the cucumbers on top from floating up and molding i placed a small jar inside the mouth of the jar to put pressure on the cucumbers to keep them down. you can also wash off a rock very well to weigh down the cukes. though, make sure you can easily get your weight out. i had a bit of trouble with my jar.

now you wait. these pickles take one to four weeks depending on the heat. ours took a little over two weeks in fairly consistent 75 degree heat. i tried the pickles once a week to begin and then every couple days as they got closer to being done. the garlic was super strong the first week we tried the pickles but it mellowed out the longer they sat out so don’t be scared if your pickles taste off the first week. there is a reason they sit out so long.

*adding grape, cherry, or oak leaves is optional. they’re not there for the flavor, but have components that keep the pickles crisper as they ferment. my first batch i didn’t use the leaves because they weren’t available to me. the pickles turned out great, but we pulled them a few days before we would have liked because we didn’t want them to get any less crisp.

these leaves are hard to find in the grocery store, especially fresh. for my next batch i grabbed a few grape leaves from a farmer’s market stall selling grapes. i would also seek out friends with cherry trees as those are easily identifiable. if you can’t find the leaves, don’t worry. your pickles will be great.

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