1 This season has been great for cucumbers - all these are from my gardens. It was the perfect time for pickling.
2 I enjoy making crock pickles - it's something I learned from my mom growing up. This "Open Crock Dill Pickles" recipe from Cooks.com called for grape leaves, fresh dill, pickling spices, cucumbers, vinegar and salt. I combined this recipe with Food.com's "Polish Dill Pickles Made in A Crock", which also called for about 10-cloves of garlic.
3 Grape leaves are used in the cuisines of many different cultures including Armenian, Persian, and Greek. They're often picked fresh from the vine, like these from my garden here at Skylands.
4 Grape leaves are packed with vitamins such as A, C, E, and K, as well as calcium, iron and fiber. They're available in jars or cans, but nothing beats fresh.
5 This recipe started with a layer of grape leaves in the bottom of a four gallon crock. Tannin-rich grape leaves keep the pickles crispy, but don't disrupt the flavors of the garlic, dill, and pickling spices.
6 Over the grape leaves, a layer of fresh dill - its stems and seeds, and the pickling spices.
7 I used this four gallon antique stoneware crock by E. Swasey & Co., from Portland, Maine. Preserving crocks are also available online.
8 The fernlike leaves of dill are aromatic and are used to flavor many foods such as gravlax, soups, and of course, pickles, where even the dill flower is used. Dill is the eponymous ingredient in dill pickles.
9 Another layer of spices, and dill.
10 And, another layer of grape leaves, plus two gallons of filtered, cold water, vinegar and then salt. Easy, right? If you haven't already, you will love making crock pickles.
11 A dish was placed over the entire mixture to weigh it down. You can also use a piece of heavy crockery. This is done to keep the pickles submerged under the liquid. The pickles will turn dark green at the end of the curing.
12 There were still a lot of cucumbers to pickle.
13 So I put my friend, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, to work. He and his family came up to Skylands for the weekend with me and my family. To make pickling more fun, Geoffrey cut a bowl of cucumbers using a knife...
14 ... While I cut my bowl of cucumbers using a mandolin slicer. Guess which ones came out the best? Geoffrey's knife cut and my mandolin cut cucumbers both looked great - both sets were cut to the right thickness, but the mandolin ones were just a tiny bit better.
15 It was hard to tell the difference between the knife cut and the mandolin cut cucumbers. I think these were Geoffrey's.
16 And these were mine. What do you think? Other recipes called for pickling cucumbers sliced into quarter-inch thick rounds. I used several bread and butter pickle recipes. Always use non-reactive bowls and pots, so that metallic flavors don't leach into the pickles.
17 In this recipe for "Crisp Bread and Butter Pickles" from Cooks.com, thinly sliced onions and sliced peppers were added with ice cubes, and mixed together.
18 These cucumbers had to stand for three-hours.
19 Emeril Lagasse's recipe for "Homemade Sweet and Spicy Pickles" called for vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, turmeric, cayenne peppers, garlic, and cloves. I also added some pepper flakes.
20 This "Bread and Butter Pickles" recipe from Joy of Cooking, called for white or brown sugar, and a one-inch stick of cinnamon.
21 I made this pickling mix of cucumbers using the brown sugar instead of the white.
22 Here is one mixture heated just to the boiling point.
23 And then, the pickles were poured into hot, sterile jars and labeled accordingly. They looked so delicious in these jars.
25 And, don't be afraid to adjust the recipes to fit your tastes. You can make them a bit more spicy if you prefer, or a bit more sweet. Enjoy your pickling! And, please let me know what you're favorite recipes are - I can't wait to read your comments.