Cucumbers are in season and they are plentiful at the Farmers’ Market. Want to make something other than cucumber salad? Try pickles. Making pickles isn’t complicated. You can preserve homemade pickles using three basic methods: lactic fermentation (cured with a salt brine), canning (soaked in pickling lime) or refrigeration (immersed in a vinegar solution).
Many enthusiasts swear fermentation yields a better pickle than the pickles made with vinegar. They are also called “crock pickles” or “brine pickles”.
Place the recipe ingredients inside the crock. Make the pickle brine and pour into the crock. Cover with a weight to keep food submerged and drape with a towel to keep out the dust. Ferment at room temperature for 2 or more weeks. Check container daily and skim any scum from the top. Fermentation bubbles may be visible. Taste pickles regularly.
When the pickles reach a flavor you like, you have three options for storing them:
1. Refrigerate to slow fermentation. Pickles should last 4 to 6 months this way. Note that pickled vegetables last longer than pickled fruits, which generally keep well for only 2 to 3 months.
2. Store in a dark, cool spot, such as the basement, where your homemade pickles will continue to ferment but should stay safe for several months.
3. Can fermented pickles for extended storage. The heat of canning compromises their crisp texture and kills the beneficial bacteria, but the flavor will remain. Canned fermented food could last a couple of years.
Kosher Dill Pickles
This recipe, adapted from, The Joy of Pickling, uses grape, oak or sour cherry leaves, which contain tannins believed to help keep fermented homemade pickles crisp. Store-bought, canned grape leaves will also work. Yield: 1 gallon.
Clean, gallon-sized glass jar or ceramic crock
Gallon-sized plastic bag or fitted crock weights
- 1 handful clean grape, oak or sour cherry leaves
- Approximately 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably freshly picked), scrubbed and rinsed
- Peeled cloves from 2 to 3 heads of garlic
- 2 quarts water
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 6 tablespoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
- 1/4 cup dill seed or 2 handfuls dill fronds
Place the leaves in the bottom of a clean crock. Slice blossom ends off the cucumbers and pack cucumbers into the crock, smallest ones first, adding garlic cloves throughout. Do not fill the crock more than two-thirds full.
In a separate container, stir together water, vinegar, salt and dill until salt dissolves. Pour this brine over the cucumbers until the liquid is an inch above the cucumbers when you’re pressing them down. If your crock has weights, set them on top of the cucumbers to submerge them. If you don’t have special weights, fill a gallon-sized plastic bag with water and set it on top to keep cucumbers submerged. Cover the crock with towel to keep out dust.
Ferment pickles for 1 to 4 weeks at room temperature, checking crock daily. Scum may develop on top; this is normal. Carefully lift off the weight and rinse it to remove scum. Skim scum from the top of the container before replacing the weight and towel. Do this daily.
You may notice bubbles after the first few days, indicating lactic fermentation is underway. After a week, begin tasting the pickles daily. Keep fermenting until you enjoy the flavor.
To store, place crock in a cool, dry, dark spot (the basement, for example), or remove pickles to smaller, lidded containers in the refrigerator. (If using metal lids, place a piece of plastic wrap between the container and the lid.) You may rinse fermented pickles and cover them with fresh pickle brine and seasonings or strain and reuse the original brine. The pickle flavor will improve after about a month in cooler conditions.
Note: If pickles become slimy or moldy during fermentation, discard them and try again.
Canned Vinegar Pickles
(If you are new to canning methods, the Ball Canning Company has excellent directions. visit their website at http://www.freshpreserving.com/getting-started)
Most modern pickling recipes rely on an acetic acid (vinegar) solution and heat treatment to preserve the vegetables. Vinegar pickles can be sweet, spicy or extremely sour. Popular examples include bread-and-butter pickles, sour gherkins and dill beans. You must use vinegar with at least 5 percent acidity to produce pickles that are safe for long-term storage.
Distilled white vinegar is the best choice because it’s inexpensive and won’t darken the cucumbers and its flavor is mild in comparison to cider, malt or wine vinegars. Avoid using rice vinegar and homemade vinegars, because their acidity is usually too weak. Always use canning recipes that have been tested for safety.
Heat vinegar, water and seasonings to make a brine. Pack whole or chopped ingredients into sterilized canning jars. Cover with hot brine, leaving appropriate head space. Apply lids and rings. Process jars in a boiling water bath.
Vinegar-Preserved Old-Fashioned Lime Pickles
This combination of ingredients and techniques makes a super-crisp, complex flavored sweet-and-sour pickle. Pre-soaking cucumbers in pickling lime keeps them very crisp.
Yield: 4 quarts.
4 quart-sized canning jars with lids and rings
Water bath canner with rack
Approximately 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably freshly picked), scrubbed and rinsed
- 1 cup food-grade pickling lime (calcium hydroxide)
- 1/2 cup pickling salt
- 1 gallon cold water
- 2 quarts cider or white wine vinegar (minimum 5 percent acidity; cider vinegar will darken pickles)
- 6 cups granulated sugar or 5-1⁄4 cups honey (honey will darken the brine)
- 2-1⁄2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
- 2 teaspoons mixed pickling spice, store-bought or homemade
- 3 pounds white or yellow onions, diced
Homemade Pickling Spice
Enclose the spices in cheesecloth and close the top with kitchen string.
- 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 1-inch piece of turmeric root, peeled, or 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small, whole, dried chile pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried chile pepper
- 1 teaspoon dill seed
- 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
To prepare cucumbers for soaking:
Cut them into quarter-inch slices and discard the ends. In a 2-gallon or larger non reactive (glass, plastic or ceramic) container mix pickling lime with salt and water. Add cucumbers and soak for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Scoop slices from lime solution, rinse in a colander and soak for 1 hour in fresh, cold water. Repeat rinsing and soaking in cold water at least two more times to completely remove the pickling lime. Drain well.
In a large pot, whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt and pickling spice or your homemade spice packet. Add onions. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes to make a syrup.
Sterilize 4 quart-sized canning jars and lids in boiling water. Pack cucumbers and onions into the jars and pour hot syrup over them, leaving a half-inch head space. Use a knife or chopstick to eliminate air bubbles. Wipe jar rims clean. Apply lids and rings.
The pickles can be canned via low-temperature pasteurization to avoid the higher heat that softens them.
Fill the canner halfway with water and heat to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Set filled jars in the canner and continually monitor water temperature for 30 minutes. Make adjustments to maintain 180 degrees for the duration. The thermometer reading should never exceed 185 degrees. (Learn more about how to make pickles using the low-temperature pasteurization method at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.)
Alternatively, process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. The flavor of vinegar pickles will improve after about a month in storage.
Sometimes called “quick pickles,” refrigerator pickles are technically vinegar pickles minus the canning. You can adjust a refrigerator pickle recipe — to use less salt or sugar or none at all — without food-safety fears. Refrigerator pickles stay crisp because the cucumbers are not subjected to heat. Making pickles using this method is fast and they are typically ready to eat within a day but should be consumed within a few months.
Prepare vinegar solution and pour over sliced vegetables. Cover and refrigerate.
Easy Refrigerator Pickles
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon dill seed
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
- 6 pickling cucumbers
- 3/4 ounce fresh dill
Combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, peppercorns, dill seed, mustard seeds and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; stir.
Quarter pickling cucumbers lengthwise or in thick round circles and place in a 1 quart glass jar; add fresh dill. Top with hot vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Pickles will be ready to eat the next day and will stay good for roughly a month.
Any combination of vegetables can be used in place of the cucumbers in the easy refrigerator pickle recipe. Here are a few examples:
- 6 Kirby cucumbers, quartered lengthwise
- 6 young spring carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 1 handful large scallion pieces or green beans
- A few pieces of cauliflower
- 4 small hot red chiles or 2 jalapenos
Interested in learning how to prepare Nordic Food? Here is your chance.
From September 13-20, 2014, New York City will be hosting the second annual NORTH Food Festival. You can attend one of the elegant dinners or attend the first ever Nordic Hot Dog Championship where Chefs battle it out for the prestigious title of Nordic Hot Dog Champion. If you will be in the area, you may want to sign up for some cooking classes. Here are just two of the featured classes. The remainder are listed on the website.
Cooking Lessons on Preparing Nordic Seafood
Cooking Lessons on Nordic Pastry Making
Here is a Video from the 2013 Festival to pique your interest.
For more information on the North Food Festival:
SPONSORED POST: NORTH Food Festival.
My Experiences With Finland’s New Nordic Cuisine:
When I was selected to contribute to the NORTH Festival Food Blogger Outreach campaign by writing about Finland’s cuisine, I asked myself – what do I know about Finland and what would I want to write about? Well, my knowledge about this beautiful Nordic country was superficial, I quickly realized. I knew, right away, though, that I would write about Finland’s food culture, since my point of view in my blog writing centers on understanding the culture and history behind a food group or recipe. I like to tell stories. It can be a story about the origin of a food or the culture of the people who eat this food or about the traditions surrounding a particular meal. So, the story for this post is what I learned about Finland’s Nordic cuisine and how to tranfer what I learned to my kitchen.
As I began my research, I realized that weather and geography have had a major impact on the Finnish cuisine. Finland is known as the “land of a thousand lakes”, so fish and seafood are an important part of their cuisine. The climate includes a short summer with long days and hot temperatures and a long winter where frost penetrates deep into the ground. Only the hardiest of plants and wild animals survive these conditions, so planning dinner is based on what is available at a particular time of the year.
Warm weather foods generally include wild berries, mushrooms, fresh vegetables, game and ﬁsh, while winter foods are generally hearty whole grain porridges, potatoes, carrots, swede (also known as a turnip or in America as a rutabaga) and meat casseroles or stews.
Cheese is usually made in the summer, when the production of milk is plentiful. Also popular at this time of year is a dessert called Juhannusjuusto, which is cooked cheese curds that are served cold and sprinkled with sugar.
In the past, very few spices, other than salt, were utilized and fresh herbs, like dill, were limited to the summer months. Fish and meat, including reindeer, are often cooked on an outdoor grill. Several ways of preparing fish are used, including frying, boiling, drying, salting, fermenting and smoking. Salmon is very popular and is usually served smoked or raw with lemon juice. It is common to smoke fish for use during the colder months.
Another popular seafood in Finland, much to my surprise, is crayfish, better known where I live, not far from New Orleans, as crawfish. The highlight of the summer for many Finns is the opening of the crayfish season in late July. Many head to the restaurants for traditional crayfish parties, where they get together to enjoy this treat and toast each other with Aquavit (a liquor made from potato or grain mash, fermented traditionally with caraway seeds and herbs). In keeping with the New Nordic Cuisine initiative, it is becoming popular to use crayfish as an ingredient when creating other entrees. This new focus can be seen in many restaurants, especially in Helsinki, where crayfish is on the menu, but not in its traditional form.
So how did this New Nordic Cuisine initiative come about? Close to ten years ago, a group of Nordic chefs rededicated themselves to cooking with local, seasonal ingredients. These forward thinking chefs felt that their cuisine should explore the region’s overlooked local products and utilize healthier methods of cooking. This movement has become a widespread maifesto, not just for restaurants, but for home cooks, also.
To understand what this new approach to cooking looked like, I watched a few videos of some of Finland’s well known chefs demonstrating their application of the New Nordic cuisine. For example, Chef Petteri Luoto prepared a Roasted Salmon entree topped with a shrimp sauce for a presentation at the Kennedy Center in February. All the ingredients he used were fresh and readily available, such as salmon, shrimp, dill, lemon and honey mustard and prepared with healthy cooking techniques. You can see the demonstration by clicking on this site:
On his blog, Sasu Laukkonen owner-chef of Chef & Sommelier Restaurant in Helsinki, writes about Finland’s culinary focus, “It made us think about our own backyards.” Laukkonen collects locally grown berries for dessert. He prepares bisque with locally caught crayfish and tops it with local apples. He roasts lamb from the Baltic Sea’s Aland Islands. He uses nontraditional ingredients, such as pike with fennel, beef tartare with parmesan mayonnaise and organic celeriac with hazelnuts and pistachios. “Ten years ago we wouldn’t have dreamt of serving Finnish lamb,” says Laukkonen. “Now that is all we serve, as well as locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. We have started to believe in our own produce.”
As part of developing this post, the NORTH Festival campaign sent me reading material and photos about Finland and two Finnish products: Ruis bread (rye) and Spelt Laku (spelt licorice). The food items were sent so that I could sample these products, write about them and possibly develop a recipe. I immediately thought sandwich, when I saw the bread. I had read that voileipä (sandwiches) are popular in Finland. Usually, a simple preparation with butter, lettuce, smoked salmon, crab or crayfish and served open-faced on hearty rye bread.
The licorice was a surprise. If I were to develop a recipe using these ingredients, how would licorice fit?
Now my expertise is in Italian cooking, but I wanted to create a recipe for this post that demonstrated the flavors of Finland for my readers. At first, I wasn’t sure how I could incorporate the licorice, short of just eating it and describing the taste. However, drawing on my knowledge of Italian seasoning, I recalled that anise is an often used spice in Italian cooking. So, why not use the spelt licorice as a flavoring ingredient in the recipe I was going to create.
I decided on using the following ingredients:
- Organic pork tenderloin: pork is a popular meat choice in Finland and readily available in the U.S.
- Reduced fat sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard: ingredients often found in Finnish cuisine
- Butterkäse, a smooth, semi-soft, lower fat cheese (in place of butter)
- Cucumbers and red onions
- Ruis rye bread
The healthy cooking techniques I used:
- Spice rub for the pork
- Oven roasting
The recipe that follows demonstrates the concept behind the New Nordic Cuisine initiative and one that can easily be made by a home cook.
Finnish Open-Faced Sandwich
- 1 organic pork tenderloin (about 1 lb) trimmed of fat
- 1/2 of a cucumber, sliced thin
- 1/4 of a red onion, sliced very thin
- 8 thin slices Butterkäse cheese
- 1/2 of a Ruis round rye bread, sliced horizontally (4 slices)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons grated spelt licorice (about 4 pieces)
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Sour Cream Sauce:
- 1/2 tablespoon reduced fat mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
- 1/2 tablespoon honey mustard
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
- Pinch of salt
To pickle the cucumbers and onions:
Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar. Add the thinly sliced cucumbers and onions. Mix well. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight.
To make the sour cream sauce:
Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, dill and salt in a small dish. Chill in the refrigerator while you cook the pork.
To make the spice rub and pork:
Grate the licorice over a piece of waxed paper and add the remaining spice ingredients. Mix well.
Place the trimmed pork on top of the spice mixture and rub it all over the surface of the pork.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
In an ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the pork on all sides.
Place the skillet in the oven and roast the pork for about 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 145 degrees F.
Remove the pork to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Then, slice thinly.
Assemble the ingredients for the sandwich and layer them in the following order:
Place 2 slices of the cheese on top of the bread.
Place 3-4 pork slices on top of the cheese; then 1/4 of the sour cream sauce on top of the pork slices and spread evenly.
Distribute 1/4 of the pickled cucumbers and onions on top of the sauce. Repeat with remaining bread and sandwich ingredients. Serve this sandwich with your favorite fruit.
My adventure into Finnish Nordic Cuisine was ………delicious! My husband agreed.
Learn more about Nordic cuisine at the NORTH Festival 2013 in New York City. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and NORTH Festival 2013.