I love bar snacks. There’s nothing better than a crunchy pickle, a beer battered onion ring and a handful of spicy peanuts to enjoy with your beer… unless you make it yourself and in addition to delicious tastiness, you can bask in the glory of accomplishment that you made it yourself! I’m a sucker for a good pickle and after a bulk buy of fresh, organic local baby cucumbers from South Melbourne market, I decided to have a go at pickling them myself:
Step 1: Sterilise your jars!
This is the same as sterilising a beer bottle before you fill them with your latest homebrew. First, you want to wash the bottles/jars in hot water with a dollop of detergent. It’s good to use a natural detergent without too many additives so that you don’t have to rinse them afterwards. Just shake off the excess bubbles and air dry them… if you’re lucky you have a buddy to help you scrub those bottles or jars!
To super-sterilise the jars, I put them into an oven at about 100ᵒC for 30-60 minutes, which will both dry them out and heat treat them to kill any nasties lurking on the surface. This the easiest way at home, as the oven doesn’t need to be watched; it just takes time, so you can go and do something else around the house, such as enjoy a nice beer while sterilisation is happening. Just remember to remove lids and rubber seals before putting the jars into the oven as these cannot be put into the oven unless they’re made of glass!
Let the jars cool in the oven before removing them so that you don’t burn your fingers! Meanwhile, the lids can be treated by chucking them into a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes:
Now, it’s time to prepare the brine for pickling the cucumbers. I used approximately:
2 cups water, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, ½ cup of salt (use iodised salt if you prefer a non-cloudy appearance to your jar of pickles)
Place all of the above on a low heat in a pot over the stove and stir until the salt has dissolved.
Now it’s time to prepare the cucumbers for their new life as pickles! Try to get some really crisp, fresh cucumbers because old, softer ones can get a bit soggy in the pickling process.
Note: you can follow the same process to pickle any vegetable that you have lying around.
They just need a quick rinse and dry to wash off any wild yeasts or fungus that might be on the skin and could ruin your pickling efforts:
I left mine whole, but many people cut off the ends or slice them lengthways or into rounds – it’s personal choice.
Now pick your spices…
Again this is personal choice. I used a couple of pinches each of caraway seeds, whole peppercorns, roasted coriander seeds, a bay leaf, a clove of garlic, a little star anise and a few cloves and a generous spoon of mustard seeds. Some fresh herbs like dill also make a nice addition if you have some in your garden:
Now you should be able to take the cooled jar out of the oven. If you are over-cautious like you’re you may first like to spray the jar with a little no rinse sanitiser (methylated spirits is just as good but don’t overdo it!). Place the spice selection into the sterilised jar and then neatly pack in as many cucumbers as you can to fill the jar.
Pour the hot brine solution over the cucumbers to completely cover them to the top of the jar and put on the sterilised lid tightly.
Now you have two options – either put your pickles straight into the fridge where they’ll stay good whilst chilled and will stay extra crunchy and bright OR you can sterilise them for longevity and store them in the cupboard.
Here’s how to do step 2:
Fill a large pot with water and put the jar of pickles in (ideally you want to cover the jar but you can always lay it sideways and roll it around during the boil). Then bring the water to boil and once boiling, leave for 5 minutes.
When you remove the pickles, check to make sure the lid has sealed (ie. That popping bit in the middle of the lid should no longer pop up or click when you press it). Now let them cool and put it into the cupboard to soak up the flavours.
Despite my long winded instructions, this literally took me all of 15 minutes to do – I actually did it on a whim whilst in the middle of cooking dinner so it’s really fool proof. Now there’s nothing left to do but enjoy them! I like to have the pickles on Henry’s chip roll with homemade sweet chilli chutney… but that’s another recipe for another blog...