By Danielle Crittenden Frum and Anne Applebaum
If you’ve ever grown cucumbers in a garden and suddenly find yourself, around about mid-August, with hundreds of them, then you understand the origins of the dill pickle. Once you’ve made cucumber soup and cucumber salad every day for a week running, you need an alternative — and this is it.
A fresh pickle — sold out of barrels in even the smallest Polish shop — is a delight on its own. It’s not one that many Americans know, unless they are lucky enough to have a delicatessen with a pickle barrel nearby. These light, crunchy pickles, immersed in water as opposed to vinegar, are not for keeping. Although they mature very quickly, and will taste good after only three days, they usually last for only a week or two. After that, they may begin to go soft.
There shouldn’t be any question of them lasting much beyond three days, however. Left out on the kitchen counter, they have a habit of disappearing very quickly.
Fresh pickles are best made in a wide-mouth ceramic container of glass jar that holds about 3 quarts, preferably one with some sort of concave top that presses the pickles down and keeps them in the water. If you haven’t got such a top, the traditional solution is to use a saucer: You place it on top of the pickles, then put a large stone or another heavy object on top of that, so the saucer immerses and presses down on the pickles.
Makes about one 3-quart jar of pickles.
3 lb small pickling cucumbers, or however many will fit in your jar
4 garlic cloves peeled
2 pieces fresh horseradish root, each about 2 inches long
The flowering top of an overgrown dill plant, or 1 large bunch for fresh dill divided into two bundles and tied (the effect of the bundles is not quite as beautiful.)
2 tbsp kosher or sea salt
Place the cucumbers, garlic, horseradish, and dill in the jar (if you are using a dill palnt, just bend it so it fits in). Sprinkle the salt on top. Pour in enough water to cover the pickles. Place a saucer or cover on top so the pickles are pressed down into the water. Leave somewhere cool for 3 days. There is no need to refrigerate. If a bit of mold or foam forms on the surface, scrape it off.
Excerpted with permission from From a Polish Country House Kitchen: 90 Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food by Danielle Crittenden Frum and Anne Applebaum, copyright 2012. Published by Chronicle Books. Photograph by Bogdan Bialy.