I suffer from pickle denial.
When I walk by the pickle aisle at the market, pretty jars of McClure's all in a row, I act like I don't want them. Hell, I don't need them. Their $12 price tag doesn't tempt me. And it's true, really—I'm fine as long as I walk on by.
But when I inevitably break down and sneak a jar into my basket, I can't curtail the craving. Alas, spending $12 on something is so much more painful when you eat the whole jar in one day. Am I right?
The moral of the story: When I want a jar of pickles (always), I want it for cheap ($2, pretty please) and stuffed with my type of pickle (salty, spicy, and as crispy as possible).
Luckily, after some at-home trial (and a few errors), I now know quick pickles are one of the easiest, set-and-forget foods to make. And if, like me, you'll eat yours within a few days, you can make your own at home in a regular jar, with no special canning equipment or process required, on the spot. If you've got cucumbers and a few pantry staples—vinegar, sugar (or some form of it, like honey), salt and a few spices—and, better yet, 24 hours, you're in pickle business.
How to Make the Brine
Really, there's no strict formula for pickle juice. As a general guideline, you need enough water and vinegar (around equal parts, although I like mine on the more vinegary side) to cover the cucumbers. (Gauging help: It took me a little over a quart of total liquid to make and store about 2 pounds of Kirby cucumbers.)
You mix it with about 1/4 cup of sugar (if you like your dills sweeter, up it to 1/3 of a cup) and a tablespoon each of a few strong spices—fresh dill and garlic, dry coriander seeds, bay leaf, peppercorns, dry mustard, fennel and cumin seeds are all fair game. I added whole Thai chiles, a cinnamon stick and a few cloves of garlic for extra kick, but feel free to customize your own combo.
Bring the whole thing to a boil, then pour it over some pre-salted cucumbers (see the slideshow for step-by-step directions). Really, you can eat them as soon as they cool, but they're best—fully saturated with all the briny goodness—after they've sat for a day.
Translation: Stalk your fridge like the dickens for the next 24 hours.
About the author: "Sue Veed" is an editor at a Manhattan-based food magazine and a current culinary student who's trying to learn it all so she can cook it all. She'll take us along for the ride as she makes the journey from home cook to professional. Among things she may never master: looking natural in a chef's hat, and acting demure whenever a pork product hits the table.