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.