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Our Recipe for Kosher-Style Dill Pickles

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 25 February 2013 at 12:40
It's that time of year, and to me there are no pickles better than the ones that my parents would always make. They were the best I've ever had, and when I made them a few years ago, I was happy to see that I'd been able to make them just as good (well?).
 
The recipe came from an old Ball or Kerr book that was my grandmother's (circa 1974), with a few "house modifications" that really made for a great jar of pickles, and uses no sugar or pre-mixed "pickling spices." 

The only real downside is that the pickles tend to be a just bit on the soft side rather than crunchy, but they were so good that I never cared. Using alum or "pickle crisp" may or may not take care of this one small "deficiency," but I don't recall that we ever tried using it, and I have no idea if using these would modify the taste. The truth is that it's not really necessary - they are only slightly soft and do not seem to get any softer with the passage of time. This might also be afftected by the processing time.
 
With that, I am posting our family recipe here in the event that someone wants to try a really, really good pickle.

 
Quote Fischer Family Kosher-Style Dill Pickles
 
For 3 quarts of pickles:

Brine:

3 Cups white vinegar
3 Cups distilled water
6 Tablespoons canning/pickling salt

Spices per quart jar (amount varies to taste):

2 to 3 Sprigs of fresh dill, or the equivalent in dried dill weed and/or seed (2 to 3 teaspoons, perhaps?)
2 to 3 Large garlic cloves
1 to 2 Bay leaves
2 to 3 Teaspoons mustard seed
1 to 2 small, dried, hot red peppers (cayenne, japone etc.), or 1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

Wash the cucumbers. Cut them into spears or slices as you prefer (whole would probably work, too); size is of course a factor. Make a brine of the vinegar, water, and salt. Bring brine to boil; then, reduce to a simmer and cover, so that there is no evaporation (evaporation will concentrate the brine and make it too salty).
 
Place a generous layer of dill and the rest of the spices (per the list above or to taste) in the bottom of each sterilized quart jar. Pack the cucumbers into the jars. When the jars are half filled with cucumbers, add more dill and complete the packing of the jars.
 
Fill the jars to within 1/2 inch of the top with the boiling brine. Put caps on jars; snug the band down, but not too tight. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Remove with tongs and place on a towel in a draft-free area to cool. Check the seal.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 13:45
That's a problem with many pickles put by with a boiling water bath, Ron. Using the so-called "long method," that is to say, lactic acid fermentation, you get crisp ones.
 
Alum is harder and harder to find, anymore. However, Ball markets a product called "pickle crisp" that does the same thing. There is some chemical difference between the two, bu I forget, offhand, what it is.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 15:16
Pickle crisp is calcium chloride and pickling lime is calcium hydroxide. Calcium hydroxide is what many would know as slaked lime. It can be found in any garden supply.

Calcium hydroxide will raise pH and must be rinsed away well to bring things back in order. Calcium chloride will have minimal impact on pH and can be put right into each individual jar when canning the pickles.

Adding boiling water to raw cucumbers is done to sanitize, but if your equipment is sterile and you are confident the pH level of the pickles/brine is somewhere in the 2.5 to 3.5 range then boiling water isn't necessary.

Fermented pickles are the way to go. Lactic acid and acetic acid have different flavor profiles.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 15:19
Rod, how would you re-equate the recipe to go the lactic acid route? Or is that even a good idea?  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 16:11
Tas, thanks so much for sharing the recipe...I can't wait to give it a try.  I think I'll take some advice from those here and try to see if I can come up with a crisp pickle...and also make a batch per your recipe also.

   Thanks a ton!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 16:20
Dan, you can use the pickle crisp in Tas's recipe. It will help with crispness. You add it to the jar before processing. 

I don't know if you can use this recipe safely in the slow method. It is set up for a "rolling boil" canning. I know there are differences in the process, I just don't know what to change.

I was hoping Brook would chime in here to shed some light.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 17:02
   Yeah, I still haven't looked at the recipes real close yet...I'll have to look at them and figure it out.  Thanks for your advice on the pickle crisp, I think I may do something like that in one jar.  I'm not looking to jar a bunch of pickles, maybe just two jars at a time or so.

    Should be fun, homemade pickles can sure be good!

   except maybe Aunt Bee's pickles... Wink  way back in Mayberry
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 17:09
Lactic acid fermented foods can then be canned using a boiling water bath. Sauerkraut, for instance, is done that way all the time. Extrapolating out, there's no reason you can't do the same with pickles.
 
The open question is, will they then turn soft? The answer is, I dunno. And you can quote me on that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 18:23
I'm back, I had to leave for awhile.

As far as the offered recipe goes, I wouldn't change the spices, as those are very subjective choices anyway.

I view pickle making as sort of a science experiment, so you might not even want to know how I would do it. Suffice to say I would shoot for a 5.0-5.4% weight to weight of salt to water when making the brine. There would be no vinegar in it, although I would certainly adjust final pH with vinegar if I had to at the end.

Crunchy, crunchy pickles are, I believe, a relatively new thing. Made by science for your pleasure and created by the addition of calcium in one form or another and a very "dialed in" manufacturing process. Old timey pickles were probably much softer, especially as they aged. Some things that will help the home pickler will be to use the calcium products available. Another thing would be to cut the flower end off every cucumber, as there are enzymes present there that will soften pickles. Then, to use cucumbers that are fresh off the vine, like within hours. That's probably the toughest to accomplish. Then ferment in a sort of cool environment, and you'll get pickles in just a few days, them getting more sour as time goes by. And we're only talking a few weeks. Refrigerate the pickles as soon as they get where you like them. They will still ferment in the 'fridge, just slower. Don't expect them to last forever, so don't make a bucket full unless you can use them. All this and they will still get mushy after enough time.

Here's a spice mix from the internet that I altered slightly. It would be OK for 1/2 gallon of pickles:

2 tbsp. mustard seed
1 tbsp. whole allspice
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 whole cloves
1 tsp. sized piece of dried ginger root
1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf, crumbled

At Vlassic I used to sit on a stool, peering through a plexi-glass window in the side of a water filled chute though which millions of cucumbers would pass. If things jammed up I would poke it with a stick. I did not make a career of it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 19:12
     Rod, thanks for the Pickle Primer...that was great!  When adjusting for salt can you use pool salt strips (ppm)?

  That was a good read...thanks.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 20:11
I haven't used test strips to test for salt. In my understanding these test strips would only work within a narrow range and for this brine application I'm afraid you would be testing way outside the range of the test strips.

I use pH test strips or an electronic pH meter to measure pH, and a old fashioned floating Hygrometer to measure specific gravity, then use tables to find the answers I need. But that's only to verify salt concentration of the beginning brine and to monitor it as the ferment progresses. To make the initial brine I use a scale to weigh the salt and using the known weight of water, calculate the weight of the salt needed to create the desired salinity.

Pickling recipes are notorious for giving bad information. Using unknown types of salt of who knows the grain size, which can vastly change the weight of say, a tablespoon of salt. And a brine salinity variation of less than 1% can change the final pH by maybe 1 whole factor. The acidity difference on the tongue between a pH of 3.6 and 2.6 is quite noticeable. A pH of 2.6 is WAY sour!

I think I'm taking this far afield of this threads original intention. My apologies.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 February 2013 at 20:31
No apologies necessary, Rod ~ your experience vis a vis fermented foods is extremely valuable, and your comments on the vast varieties of salts are a lesson to be heeded.
 
For pickling and canning, I always use "canning and pickling salt;" but the question is, "what did the person who wrote the recipe use?" I would generally regard the Ball/Kerr recipes to be reliable, but beyond that I have no way of knowing.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 February 2013 at 02:21
Well, if we can get back to the original intent of the thread Wink crispy pickles...the pickle crisp does help immensely and I use it all the time. The other method that works is low-temperature pasturization...i.e. keeping the processing temperature between 180°F and 185°F for the entire processing time.  This method worked great for me...it requires that you pay close attention but is easily doable in a home kitchen.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 February 2013 at 04:57
Originally posted by Rod Rod wrote:

Crunchy, crunchy pickles are, I believe, a relatively new thing
 
I'm curious what you would consider "new" in this context, Rod.
 
Lactic acid fermentation---which does, indeed, produce a crisp, crunchy pickle---is one of the oldest forms of food preservation.
 
Certainly, as you point out elsewhere, there is a point (especially with cucumber pickles) where the firmness reverses. But until the veggies start softening up over time they will have that crunch we all seem to prefer.
 
I'd also be curious to see if there's a difference in texture between using a brine, as you do, versus the traditional method of layering directly with salt.
 
Another issue I've never seen addressed. Using the same recipe, will there be regional differences in taste/texture due to differences in the available wild yeasts? It certainly works that way with sourdough bread, so, in theory, the same syndrome should apply with pickles.  
 
Originally posted by Ron Ron wrote:

......emulating a pickle that was made famous in Jewish delis of New York City.
 
I grew up with those deli pickles, Ron. They always came out of wooden barrels in those days. Every deli had a row of them, with different types of pickles---all of which, in those days, had been lactic acid fermented.
 
They were not, of course, called kosher dills; there was no need. But the row of barrels would contain: dill pickles, garlic dills (what we now call kosher dills), a curious variety that was only half pickled, and sauerkraut.
 
One other product, usually found mixed in with the kraut, were the sour tomatoes. These were pickled green tomato wedges that were firm and crisp. Lactic acid fermenting is the only way they can be done without becoming soft. Trust me, I've tried every other imaginable method and they can't be replicated.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 February 2013 at 07:16
The following link is to a great resource on all things pickle. It's what got me started and still serves me well. You can learn a lot from this publication. It is about traditional pickle making from all over the world. In the entirety of the paper I could find no mention of calcium indicating that it is a relatively new thing that has been introduced by food scientists. When exactly? I don't know.

http://www.fao.org/docrep/x0560e/x0560e00.htm

In the following link, which leads to the abstract of a paper which tested and proved that the addition of calcium increased the crunchiness of cucumbers and also showed that if a minimum concentration of calcium was maintained in the finished product, that crunchiness was maintained for a longer time.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-4557.2011.00374.x/abstract

Recipes that ask the maker to use pickling lime, ask that it be added to a cold soaking in water. There is plenty of evidence indicating now that if one uses the lime with salt in this pre-ferment soaking that a better and more thorough distribution of calcium is obtained. This would alter brine concentrations in brine based processes.

http://ncsu.edu/foodscience/USDAARS/Acrobatpubs/S91-113/S99.pdf

As far as do dry salted cucumbers turn out better than brined cucumbers? I didn't locate any references to that, but I know the bacteria involved in the fermenting process are exactly the same, and the only real difference is where the water comes from. Dry salted cucumbers make their own brine, the salt drawing water from the cucumbers.

Bacteria and yeast/molds are different things.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 March 2013 at 13:44
RESULTS!
 
The pickles are ready, thanks Tas!

    The recipe turned out good.  I did use a little bit of pickle crisp in the jar as well as the half and half water/vinegar solution.  I let the jars sit out for four day before putting them into the refrigerator.  I made a total of three jars full of pickles, two standard and one with some sliced jalapeno in the jar.   They were really easy and I'll definitely try this again.  Next time I'll try to cut the vinegar back by a part and add it to the water side of the solution.

     Since I have the pickles done, I'm next going to start on the un-ham recipe to use in my Cuban sandwiches (can't wait)!

   Thanks for sharing Tas!


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 March 2013 at 09:28
Say, Dan - I am indeed honoured that you tried these and am eager to know what you think of them!
 
I'll be interested in seeing how the pickle crisp works. Normally, we would would make a couple-three dozen jars of these, then they would go on a shelf to be used over the course of the next year. This of course doesn't encourage crispness, but they are nice to have in the middle of winter, even if they have lost some of their firmness.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 March 2013 at 17:50
   Hi Tas...

   They were good.  So far they are still crisp, but we'll see how long that lasts with the pickle crisp being used.  The 1:1 solution was slightly strong on the vinegar side.  I'm thinking for my next batch I'll cut back on the vinegar a little.  But I gotta say...with the Cuban Sandwiches in mind, and little more vinegar may be nice to cut some of the fat in the sandwich.

   again...thanks!

   I don't think I'll be buying pickles from the store any more Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 March 2013 at 14:07
    another update...

   These pickles went from being a little too vinegary to extremely vinegary.  Like I said, I put them into the refrigerator, after three day on the counter.  I had read putting them in the refrigerator was suppose to stop them from getting more vinegary, that wasn't the case....WOW!

   I'm not sure what exactly went wrong???
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 March 2013 at 14:29
I'm not sure, Dan - a lot of the pickle recipes I found in my research show a half-water/half vinegar brine. I always thought of these pickles as "puckery," but never excessively so.
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