I just found out I'm Jewish.
Thanks to a DNA testing kit that my husband bought each of us for Christmas, I have some new bragging rights. Somewhere in the last 300 years I have some ancestors who were Ashkanazi Jews, probably making knishes and briskets and peddling them across the Italian countryside. I'd like to think that, anyway.
So to celebrate my new-found hertitage, I decided to make pickles like the ones I've always coveted at Katz's Deli, Carnegie Deli, Canter's, and closer to home, Chompie's. I've been experimenting with pickling green tomatoes over the last several years, and finally settled on a brine and recipe that I really liked. Pickling is simple. You really can't kill anybody because of the vinegar, so it's a good way to start your food preservation kick.
PS: I also found out I'm equally as much Neanderthal as I am Jewish, but for some reason, I am not as thrilled about that discovery. I'm sure Naomi Pomeroy would celebrate by eating a raw pig, but um, I'll stick to pickles, thanks.
See also: How to Assemble the Perfect Cheese Plate
Step One: Get some jars. I use old pickle jars, old glass peanut butter jars, Ball jars I bought at Goodwill, and basically anything that's big enough, made of glass and still has a matching lid.
Step Two: Get a big pot. The biggest pot you have. Something you'd make Sunday gravy in. Throw as many jars and lids in it as will fit, cover with water and bring to a boil. Keep the jars in for five minutes. Repeat until all of your jars and lids are sterilized. I pull them out of the water with a pair of tongs and place them on the counter to dry and cool. Repeat until all jars are ready.
Step Three: Brine Time! It's not scary, I promise. This is my recipe for the brine: 8 cups water, 1.5 cups white vinegar Half a cup canning salt. Canning salt is super important--regular salt will not do. It is iodized, which will make things in your pickles turn weird, disgusting colors. You don't want that. Then taste, taste, taste. Add more salt if you like pickles saltier. I would say I arrived at a nice tasting point at about a little over half a cup of salt. And two tablespoons sugar. ¼ tsp of Allum (keeps the cukes crisp, available in spice section)
Bring the brine to a boil, but don't let it boil for too long--the water will reduce which will make your brine saltier.
Step Four: While the brine is coming to a boil, cut the cukes. I bought my pickling cukes at Albertson's, and they are called "snacking cucumbers" there. I would make a fair bet you can get them at most any grocery store, although Safeway was a bust. I bought six pounds, and that was enough to fill eight regular-sized jars. Quarter the cukes, cut off the ends if they don't fit in the jar. You want them to fit right before the neck of the jar begins. Some will fit without cutting, some won't. Eyeball it.
Step Five: For each jar, thinly slice two cloves of garlic and two slices of yellow onions. Put those amounts in each jar, which should have cooled enough by now.
Step Six: Stuff the jars full of the quartered cukes. Stuff them like Claussen's does!
Step Seven: With a ladle, fill each jar to the brim with your brine.
Step Eight: To every jar, add 1/4 tsp mustard seed, peppercorns (white or black), three dashes of celery salt, and three dashes of garlic salt if you wish. Tap jar to get the bubbles out. Put lids on and shake them to get everything all mixed up. You can also add a sprig of dill if you like, or dried pods of Arbol chilies, or red pepper flakes according to your taste. I can buy dill pickles anywhere, so I'm omitting them from my batch and just going with straight garlic and onion.
Step Nine: Stick 'em in the fridge for two weeks.
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Step Ten: After two weeks, they are ready. Step Eleven: Be prepared. When people eat these, they will think you are magic. Then I say, "No, but I AM Jewish. So, close!"