Monday, August 24, 2009

Quick Cucumber Pickles with Tarragon

I have only recently begun making my own pickles from cucumbers in our garden and since I eat so many, I haven't bothered going through the trouble of actually canning them. These pickles last for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator but I would bet, if you're like me, they don't make it that long.

A mandoline is essential in getting perfect, thin slices of cucumber. I always look for reasons to use mine because as I slice away, I can't help but imagine one or several of my fingers getting shaved off which brings an exciting bit of drama to the whole process.

After the slicing adventure is over, all that's left to do is let the cucumbers soak in a bit of salt, boil the brine ingredients together, and combine it all in a couple of glass pint jars. A warning: the first time I made these I didn't rinse the salt off the cucumbers thoroughly enough and man, they were SALTy. Luckily I have good friends who ate them anyway.

For about 2 pints:
  • 1½ pounds cucumbers, ends trimmed (I use pickling cucumbers)
  • ¼ cup pickling salt
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1½ cups white vinegar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs of tarragon

Thinly slice the cucumbers, place them in a colander and gently toss them with the salt. Cover the colander with plastic wrap and set it over a bowl. Let the cucumbers drain for one hour.

Meanwhile, bring the water, vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, bay leaves, celery seed and peppercorns to a boil in a saucepan. Allow to boil for 2-3 minutes, turn the heat off and transfer to a large measuring cup. Set aside to cool.

After the cucumbers are done draining, rinse them under cool water and gently toss them under the water to thoroughly remove the salt. Spread them out on several paper towels. Place more paper towels on top and press down to blot off the water. Sterilize 2 glass pint jars (I just run mine through the dishwasher). Divide the cucumbers between both jars. Nestle 2 sprigs of tarragon in each jar.

Most of the brine ingredients will have settled to the bottom of the measuring cup. This is fine. I just pour the brine into the jars and discard whatever brine ingredients remain. Once the cucumbers are covered with the brine, poke around the jars a bit with a knife to get rid of any air bubbles. Pour additional brine to cover, leaving ½-inch headspace. Screw the lids on and place in the refrigerator.

The pickles will be ready to eat in a day and are good for about 3 weeks.

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