I admit it.  When it comes to cooking I am not naturally talented.  So I am a cooking-talent vampire; a recipe plagiarist who likes to combine other people’s hard work and God-given talent, a bit of bumbling personal experimenting, a dash of typing/editing bling and call it mine.

I put this recipe together from combining what I thought were the most authentic pickle recipes available on the internet.  Main sources were:
1.  Polish Heritage Cookery  “Polish Brine-Cured Dill Pickles (ogorki kiszone/kwazone)” by Robert & Maria Strybl, as quoted by Arthur A Simon, Jr.
2.  “Russian Brine Pickles” from T. Collins, who got it from his father-in-law in Finland who got it from a friend who’d spent some time in Russia.
Make sure to put the kitchen scale on metric setting when measuring out ingredients.  If you don’t have fresh dill available (preferably from your garden), don’t even bother to start the process until you have some.

The classic dill pickle, whose preparation goes back well over 1000 years, is natural cured, hence it is a far healthier alternative than any of the pickles made with vinegar.  It is extremely versatile, since it produces several products in a single container: the crunchy, several-day under-cured pickles some people like, tart and tangy fully-cured pickles and very tart and soft over-cured pickles, which are good for eating and a required ingredient in dill-pickle soup.  The leftover dill-pickle juice is a vitamin and mineral-rich beverage as is, or in combination with other ingredients and can be used to give a delightful tang to soups, sauces, and meat dishes.  (We like to use the extra brine as stock for our potato-leek soup).  Above all, ogorki kizone are so delicious that they disappear from our counter-top crock.  They are also easy to prepare.

What We’ve Learned the Hard Way
Here is what our family has learned by experience so far:

1. Do not use plastic buckets.  They give the pickles an off-taste and are not able to keep the brine cold.  The pickle taste also leaches into the plastic and does not come out again.

2. Do not use dried dill, it doesn’t work at all, and makes a mess.  Fresh dill is hard to find.  When my local grocery store and bulk produce stop ran out, I was out of luck.  Because they are essential to my pickles, and of great benefit warding pests away from my cabbages, I made a special effort to grow my own dill in the second year after we started trying to make brine pickles.

3. As tempting as it is to not want to waste anything, do not use old, overgrown pickles that you’ve been too late to pick in their prime.  They make for seedy pickles whose interior cores are mushy-slimy.

4. Horseradish is said to make pickles “knackig”, or crunchy, but I am unsure if it’s horseradish root, horseradish leaf, or both. We’ve used the root because I bought it, didn’t grow it.

5. Pickles WILL eventually go bad if left to themselves, in the cellar or in the fridge.  They will not last all winter.  Therefore, a good part of the finished product ought to be canned or dehydrated.

6.  I didn’t have the fruit leaves the recipe called for for 2 years in a row…  I’m not sure what I’m missing.  The oak leaves, courtesy of a friend’s tree, had no negative effect on the taste.

INGREDIENTS:
* 15 to 20 lbs of cucumbers
* #10 crock or equivalent volume in glass or ceramic containers
* 12 medium cloves of garlic, chopped
* 80 grams of horseradish root chopped.
* fruit tree leaves (cherry, black currant or grape are best)
* 9 bunches of fresh pickling dill
* 2 chili peppers, chopped. The yellow ones (stronger than Jalapenos) are said to get good results.  Careful not to get them too hot!
* 250 grams of sea salt
* 6 liters of water.

Other optional flavorings:
(Do not use all these flavorings in a single batch of pickles, but experiment on successive batches to see which combination suits you.)
* 5 horseradish leaves (knackig?)
* 2-10 green oak leaves (said to give pickles a barrel-like taste)
* 5 bay leaves
* 5 pinches mustard seeds
* 5 slices celeriac or parsley root
* It is said that an exotic but delicious addition to the crock is a single piece of fresh ginger root the size of a dime.

1.  PREPARE THE CROCK
Wash, dry, scaled with boiling water and dry again the large glass jar or crock you will use to accommodate the pickles.

2.  PREPARE THE BRINE
Dissolve the salt in the water.  It’s easier if you heat the water.  Let the brine cool to room temperature before using.  It takes a while, so while you’re waiting, you can go outside and pick your cucumbers.

3.  GARDEN-FRESH CUCUMBERS
Select only the freshest green pickling cucumbers.  Your cucumbers should be young, roughly 4-inches long.  Cukes larger than 6 inches are not used.  If you have cucumbers of varying size, put the large ones at the bottom of the jar, since they take longer to cure.

The best cucumbers to brine cure are those picked the same day from your own garden.  (If  yours are not same-day pickles, but “mostly-fresh” (acquired someplace like a roadside stand) soak your roadside cukes in ice-cold water 2-3 hours.) Old pickles make mushy pickles.  Waxed pickles make natural pickling impossible.

Trim off the stems and scrub them under cool water [perhaps singing an impromptu  “Washing the Pickles” song as I got to with my little helper].  Use only the best and do not be tempted to feel sorry for an only half-way decent cuke and sneak it in.  It will be the cuke that rots first and spoils the other ones.

4.  ASSEMBLY
* At the bottom of your crock, place 1/3 of your stalks of mature dill (head or seed clusters as well as stems), and half of your garlic, horseradish and leaves.
* Stand cucumbers in crock upright.
* After first layer, add another third of dill, garlic, horseradish and leaves.
* Add second layer of cucumbers and third layer
* Top with last third of dill.
* IMPORTANT: Move pickle and spice-filled crock to it’s final location BEFORE adding the brine.

5.  BRINE AND WEIGHT
Add the brine to cover the ingredients.  It is important that all the ingredients are totally submerged to avoid spoilage.  Place a heavy plate over the ingredients to weigh them down.  A heavy stone is handy for adding a little extra weight.  Cover the bucket with something it can breathe through (cheesecloth, old towel or pillowcase).

6.  TICK, TOCK and SKIM
You will notice bubbles forming.  This is the normal fermentation process at work.  If a scum or film forms on the surface, skim it away.  It is normal.  Check pickles every day if you can, every other day at least.  In about 2 or 3 weeks, the process will be finished.  During this time, I also like to  re-read Elder David A. Bednar’s “parable of the pickle” General Conference talk, “Ye Must Be Born Again”, from the May 2007 Ensign, p. 19–22.

7.  CARE AND KEEPING OF PICKLES
*  Pickles may be kept on the counter-top or in the fridge.  Will not go bad as quickly in the fridge.
*  Remove them with tongs, never with fingers, to avoid introduction of new flora to the brine. (Tongs should not be aluminum. Stainless steel is best.)

8.  RESERVING THE BRINE
When the brine really looks yucky-milky (from the yeast in suspension), put it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation.  The yeast will settle to the bottom.  Then carefully drain, reserving the liquid but flushing away old yeast.  Replace the liquid, placing back into the fridge and allowing the ferment to continue slowly.  The brine will keep for up to 3 weeks or more under these conditions.

9.  TOO FAR GONE
As always with preserving food, be careful of spoilage.  Slimy pickles or a bad odor are signs of spoilage.  Don’t eat them if you suspect they have gone bad.

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