Etymology: Middle English "pekille"
Pickles are simply young cucumbers (the botanical distinction between the two is relatively recent.) Progressive selection has permitted the development of hybrid varieties that bear early abundant fruit of a smaller size than the traditional cucumber. These small pickling cucumbers are picked when 2-3” long: that is, before their full maturity.
Grandmother Tablier used to make her own pickles. She grew the little cucumbers in her garden and when the time came, picked them and placed them in a wooden vat with coarse salt. Afterwards they would be rinsed in rain water. I can still hear her: “It’s not wizardry! You have to salt them just long enough so that they stay crunchy and taste them to be sure they have just a touch of salt and no more.” Then she would line up her Mason jars on the kitchen counter and fill them with little cucumbers and vinegar. “But never use jars with enameled lids, little one. Vinegar is acidic. It’ll remove the paint!”
In the market you can sometimes buy pickling cucumbers in brine. In this case, simply begin with step 3 (basic recipe below).
- 1 kg / 2 lb. small pickling cucumbers
- 1 litre / 4 cups white vinegar
- 3 tbsp. coarse pickling salt
Pickled cucumbers are tasty on their own. But if you wish, you can also add as desired:
- White or black peppercorns
- Pickling spice
- A little garlic, etc.
- Wash and brush the little cucumbers with a cloth to remove the surface bristles.
- Place the coarse salt on the cucumbers and leave them to exude their liquid for 4 to 24 hours, depending on the size.
- Rinse and drain. Dry well.
- Pack a row of cucumbers into a glass jar.
- Repeat until the jar is filled.
- Cover with vinegar and season to taste. Close the jar tightly. Sterilize (process in boiling water) if you wish to keep them for a longer time.
- Let age for about 3 weeks before eating.
It’s important to always take pickles out of the jar with clean tongs so as not to contaminate the brine and spoil the other pickles; for the same reason, never use your fingers.
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