Some of us may have joined the great gardening movement caused by COVID-19 this year, and planted flowers and maybe even vegetables. We always grow tomatoes, but this year the usual varieties were scarce, and we had to settle for some fairly tasteless unknowns. Usually our cucumbers are planted with great hopes but limited success. Our herbs are not stellar, unless they‘re invasive (mint) and the traditional dill seems to disappear every year. Nevertheless we are well-versed in end-blossom rot (not enough water), splitting fruit (too much water), fertilizing with epsom salts, but it seems that our Lithuanian green thumbs could be greener. For some reason, we can‘t give it up.
So toward the end of the summer, we resort to buying a basket or two of pickling cucumbers to perpetuate Dad‘s Dill Pickle recipe (found in the book Treasures of Lithuanian Cooking). It is extremely simple and foolproof. But we would hereby like to amend the amount of salt in the published recipe. We have found that the one-half cup is a bit too salty for us – but may be fine for others. The recipe is only difficult because we can‘t tell you how many cucumbers to use. It depends on how big they are. The same goes for the size of the jar you put them in. Before I reveal the great secret to a mild, fresh-tasting dill pickle (no garlic – it just wasn’t in our family culture), may I suggest that if you want them to pickle quickly, cut the ends off the pickles. If you can find the dill in its entirety, blossom to root, use that, but I have found the usual bunch of pretty dill fronds from the grocery store is also good.
♦ Boil 7 cups of water, mix with ¼ cup of coarse salt (if you use 8 cups, maybe a slightly heaping ¼ cup)
♦ Take your basket or bag of fresh, firm pickling cucumbers, wash them, trim (or don‘t trim) the ends.
♦ Wash/sterilize your glass jar, which should hold one gallon of liquid.
♦ Wash and chop the dill into any convenient length.
♦ Layer the dill with the cucumbers
♦ Pour on the hot water mixed with salt
♦ Cover the jar and refrigerate when cool if you want to slow down the pickling process. Dad used to cover with a saucer and leave it out on the counter for a quicker pickle. Even just a few hours makes them delightful with, of course, sour cream. I‘ve been told that adding cherry leaves to the jar keeps the pickles crisper longer.
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