Humans are strange creatures; take me for example. In late January I found myself with two days off from work, stuck at home during an unheard of ice barrage that fell upon our city. Some folks in Mobile took three days off and most schools closed four. Two to four inches of ice covered the entire city, our roadways were Teflon-like coated, making it impossible and dangerous to get about. No one did except the police and careless fools. The police and first responders were there to rescue those fools. As I glazed out the windows of our kitchen, the only color besides the stark white of frozen ground were the dark, limp green branches of our evergreen shrubs. Gone are the six year old planted plumbagos, the pintas and the firecracker bushes both being around for at least four years and planted for our well traveled hummers. It was not a pretty site as I eagerly awaited the hourly arrivals of the several red birds that visit our songbird feeder; not only are they precious to watch but now, their color ever so welcomed.
During these two days, highs were in the low 30's and the lowest at night fell to 15 degrees F. Our average January temperature as history tells is a low of 40 degrees. Mobile is some 20 miles north of the warm Gulf of Mexico. As I found myself with so much time on my hands, I went about doing what I enjoy the most: Cooking and experimenting with recipes. Of course, I made the usually cold weather soups, a hot peppered flavored chili, enjoyed a full, all out breakfast (which is rare in our house) and even filled our southern appetite with country baked chicken, rice and gravy, speckled butter beans, fresh green beans, collard greens and warm, buttery cornmeal muffins. The only thing missing was a condiment of chow-chow for the butter beans but alas, I had pear relish my sister had 'put up' back in the summer.
Now, while most Mobilians went about doing, whatever it was that occupied their time, I went about doing something most folks do in the summer: Thinking about 'putting up' pickles. Yup. It just so happened during this cold blast, our local grocer stocked some beautiful, bright green cukes. And the rest, as they say, is history. Enjoy!
super crunchy Kosher Dill Pickles
makes about 5 pints of chips or about 7 pints of spears
I made 4 pints of spears and 2 pints of chips
1 quart (4 cups) distilled water
3 tablespoons Kosher salt (not table salt)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar (5% acidity)
4 to 5 pounds pickling cucumbers (about 15)
into each pint:
2 heads or small bunches of fresh dill (or about 3/4 teaspoon dried dill seed)
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
heaping 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
4 whole black peppercorns
2 to 4 garlic toes
Be sure to have your jars and lids clean and sterile. A run through the hot cycle of your dishwasher will do just fine or use soapy hot water. Allow to dry.
Wash and lightly scrub the outside of the cucumbers. I like to cut off about 1/2-inch from the stem end and at least 1-inch from the blossom end cutting the lenghts to fit jars. Leaving the blossom end on can cause pickles to become mushy. If making spears, slice lengthwise into halves or quarters depending on your preference. If making chips, slice cukes into uniform, thick disks, almost 1/2-inch thick.
Add the dill, minced onion, mustard, peppercorns and garlic among the jars. Pack cucumbers into jars.
In a medium stockpot over medium high heat, add water, salt, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a rolling boil and stir with clean spoon until salt dissolves. Remove from heat.
Pour the hot brine mixture into the jars leaving 1/4-inch head-space. You will have some brine left over. Cover with lid or cheesecloth and place in refrigerator. Pickles are ready in a about a week, better after two and will keep for months, if they last that long.
Notes: For a southerly Delta style pickle, add a bay leaf and a few hot chiles or red peppers to each jar.