A few weeks ago, the first little pickling cucumbers of the season appeared in my garden. I have been waiting (im)patiently for them since last December when I ate the last pickle from the previous summer’s crop. It was a sad, dark day, that.
I’m not talking about those limp, overly-tart, vinegar- and heat-treated pickles either. No, I am talking about true fermented pickles. If you’ve had them, you know why my winter was all the more bleak (Yes, I know I live in California where the winters are far from harsh but I repeat: I WAS OUT OF PICKLES!). If you have not experienced “real” pickles, we must remedy this, stat (follow the recipe below and everything will be OK).
It was this long-ass, pickle-less winter and spring that induced near giddiness when I found three little cukes in my garden just begging to be bathed in brine. I knew as I plucked them from the vine that they were destined for something special, something different. These pickles were going Thai.
I wandered the garden for provisions and came back to the house with purple-skinned carrots, kaffir lime leaves, a few stalks of lemongrass, and a handful of cilantro. I knew the tiny Thai chiles and ginger were waiting in my pantry, eager to be pressed into service.
I prepared and cooled the brine (I put mine in an ice bath to rapidly bring down the temperature), chopped the vegetables, and packed everything into a jar in under 10 minutes. And then, I waited. For 10 days. I waited.
The results: They were delicious; infused with Thai aromatics and just a touch of heat from the chiles. The purple-skinned carrots gave my brine a pretty pink tint at the end. The kaffir lime leaves and the lemongrass provided those distinctively Thai notes that the cilantro and ginger helped to boost.
In my next batch, I think I will increase the number of chiles used as I wanted them to have a bit more heat.
The carrots still have quite a bit of crunch to them and I plan on using a few of them, finely minced, in a Thai-style sardine salad with lime juice, fresh cilantro and mint, a squeeze of ginger juice, and a dollop of mayonnaise swirled with Sriracha. Small scoops of that, served atop rice crackers (and a Thai pickle of two on the side) will make for a lunch packed with probiotics, omega 3s, and, best of all, flavor!
At this point, my cucumber vines are ramping up to full production. In fact, earlier this week, I started a gallon of traditional dill pickles and will likely need to take a trip down to my root cellar to bring up my 2-gallon jar before too long. This year I hope to be in pickles until well past Christmas. A girl can hope, right?
And while I do love a good dill pickle, this experiment with Thai aromatics makes me want to declare an end to dill’s hegemony in the pickle realm. Join me, won’t you? What would (or have) you used to season your pickles? Share a recipe (or two), please!
Yield 1 1/2 pints
- 3 pickling cucumbers, cut into 1-2″-thick chunks
- 2-3 small carrots, sliced into disks
- 4 -5″ stalk of lemongrass, cut in half lengthwise
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 7-8 dried Thai chiles
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves and stems
- 4 slices of peeled ginger root
- 2 teaspoons Celtic Sea Salt (coarse ground)
- Equipment: 1 1/2-pint Ball jar, 1 Kraut Source (or other device for keeping vegetables submerged)
- Bring 2 cups of filtered water to a boil. Add salt and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool completely.
- Pack all remaining ingredients into the jar (leaving 1″ of headspace).
- Add enough brine to completely cover the vegetables.
- Use a screw band to hold your Kraut Source in place, fill the moat, and add the airlock cap.
- Wait (im)patiently for 7 – 10 days.