This quick and simple recipe makes sweet and sour pickle slices for sandwiches perfect for mounding on hamburgers, deli meats, pulled pork sandwiches, and my fave, on a liverwurst (a.k.a. liver sausage a.k.a. Schwarzenegger) sandwich. These pickles make a nice side dish, and heck, I've been known to demolish half a jar when I have the munchies. This recipe is for making sandwich sized slices, but there's no reason why you can't use it to make spears or whole pickles. Whole pickles take a bit longer because the skin is not as permeable as the inside of the cuke.
You don't need to Pasteurize or heat treat these pickles, and you don't need much time to make them, but they must be stored in the refrigerator. Because I got tired of homemade pickles swimming in spice flotsam and jetsam, I have fine tuned this recipe so you can get them out. You will need an 18 x 18" piece of cheesecloth and about 6" of kitchen string (clean kite string will do) to do it. Click here to learn more about The Science of Pickles, the different types of pickles, and pickle production methods.
Yield. Makes about 1 quart
Preparation time. 3 1/2 hours
Cooking time. 30 minutes
1 1/2 pounds of small pickle cucumbers, about 3 to 5" long
2 tablespoons pickling spices
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar, 5% acidity
1 1/2 cups sugar
About the cukes. Regular cukes will work, but pickle cukes, about 3 to 5" long, work better because they have thicker skins and fewer seeds. You can make gherkins if you can get those little baby cukes. Just use them whole.
About the vinegar. Use only distilled white vinegar, not cider vinegar. Cider vinegar has too strong a flavor for this recipe.
About the salt. The amount of salt and vinegar are crucial in making pickles so if you must substitute another salt, use my conversion table.
About the pickling spices. Pickling spices are a blend of spices and the blend can vary from packer to packer. Click here for my recipe for pickling spices.
Options. You can add other flavors if you wish. I recommend you start with this recipe. Then, if you like, make another batch and add a small sliced onion, or 1/2 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes.
1) Slice the cukes into 1/8" disks. Place the cucumber slices in a bowl. Sprinkle with the salt, and mix it all together. Put the bowl in the fridge for about 3 hours.
2) Take an 18 x 18" square of cheesecloth. Fold in half and again to make a smaller square 4 layers thick. Place the pickling spices in the center of the square. Bring up all the edges and tie them together to make a pouch, and tie it together with some kitchen string.
3) Put the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan, and add the pouch of pickling spices. Turn the exhaust fan on high or take this outdoors to the sideburner on your grill because the vinegar smell will be strong. Bring to a boil and back it down to a simmer and let the spice bag steep for about 30 minutes.
4) The salt will pull water from the cukes, so drain them in a colander, rinse off excess salt, shake off excess water, from the rinse and add to a very very clean quart jar. Pour the spiced syrup in while it is still hot, and fill until the pickles are submerged or within 1/4" of the rim. If there is extra syrup, you can throw it out. If you are short, don't worry. A few slices may float. That's OK, too. With a spoon knock out any big bubbles under the pickles. Seal tight, and chill. They can be used the next day but it takes a few days to reach peak flavor. Keep in refrigerator. They usually don't last long in my house, but I've kept a small jar for as long as a year in the fridge.