pickles

You know those people who are notoriously slow to latch onto certain foods? They say it’s the texture or the flavor? They never liked it, never will? We all know those people. We all are those people. So let me start off this post by addressing them—addressing us—and saying this: the following story is one you can read and take heart. I like pickles.

Yes, I wrote that right. I LIKE PICKLES. Expect all manner of impossibilities from here on out: Up can be down. Left can be right. You can take something you always thought you wouldn’t like and make it in your own kitchen and boom: it’s a world where anything is possible.

making homemade pickles

I mean, people. Since childhood, I have been the girl who picks pickles off my sandwiches! In my entire life, I’ve never bought a jar at the store!

It’s not that I’ve never tried pickles or even that I hated them when I did, but it’s as simple as this: I wouldn’t choose them. Ever.

But, like so many other things in 2010, that’s changed.

Step One: Wanting to like them. So it’s one thing to feel like you should try to like something because someone else does. Or because someone’s offered it to you. Or because it’s on sale at the store. It’s another entirely to feel like you should try to like something because it’s good for you. Did you know naturally fermented pickles are just that?

Different from commercial fermenting (not all pickles are created equal!), natural fermenting is done without vinegar, which slows down the fermenting and enzymatic processes. By letting the foods naturally ferment, you get results that are nutritionally beneficial and that aid digestion and overall health! I’m all for functionality in what I eat, so a few months ago, I started eating pickles when they were offered to me. If there was one on my plate at a restaurant, I’d eat a few bites. If you handed me one, I’d try it. This was all an effort to gradually, consistently break down years of dislike.

These walls breaking down, these gradual changes, were nothing we don’t experience everyday, in all spheres of our life, like when we start to talk to someone at the office more often or when we listen with an open mind to a friend’s idea or the way it feels to do something purposefully new, just to give it a shot. Along the way, things are changing; you’re changing.

homemade garlic dill pickles

Step Two: Making them myself. You can buy naturally fermented pickles in some places, but they’re harder to find, so the simplest solution was to make them myself. At the Wheaton Farmers Market a few weekends ago, I grabbed a container of short, squatty little pickling cucumbers and brought them home. We washed and jarred them with water, sea salt, dill and garlic, closing the lids and leaving them on the counter. My kitchen is cold, so I didn’t look at them again for just over a week.

But when I did: oh, man. It was like I’d never had a pickle before. The garlic! The dill! The crisp crunch! The salty flavor! I ate a whole one right away, then another in the morning. These are not just any pickles: these are THE pickles, the ones that changed the game forever. I’d like to hand you one so you can see.





Homemade Garlic Dill Pickles
The amount of cucumbers you’ll need depends on the size of your jars and the amount of pickles you want to make. I bought a small container of them at the farmers’ market and only needed two mason jars.

Ingredients:
Pickling cucumbers
Water
Sea salt
Dill (I used dried, but you could use fresh dill or dill seed)
Garlic

Directions:
Fill each four-cup jar about a quarter or a third full with water, and add two tablespoons of sea salt, two tablespoons of dill and two to three garlic cloves. Add in cucumbers, as many as will fit comfortably, and then fill the rest of the jar with water, leaving a little room at the top. Cover and set on the counter for 5 to 8 days. Taste to see when they’re done—crispy and flavorful—and then stick the jars in the fridge, which stops the fermentation process.

Cooksnaps
Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 38 Comments

  1. Kim

    I’m excited to be writing the first comment on this post, because Shanna, I am the Queen of Pickles. Seriously, I think pickles are one of the greatest things on the planet, and I am ashamed that I have never made my own. I have always been this way, ever since I was a little girl, and I have converted Will from a “pickle-picker” (as in picks them off burgers) to a full on pickle eater. It only took about the first three years of the relationship or so, but we’ve been enjoying pickle-laden relationship bliss ever since. I’ll note that it’s taken five years for me to finally come around to beer.

    I think that perhaps pickles will be my first exciting food project in my new apartment.

  2. Celeste

    Sure looks like the ones my grannie made.
    I’ve always been the one in the family for crunchy, vinegary tasting food, namely pickles. And, when I worked for a short time at a chocolate store in the local mall, I went next door for a pickle or sauerkraut.
    My holiday is over, I need to get to my pickling.

  3. Kristen at Batterlicker

    Glad you hear that you finally found some pickles that work for you. I’ve had a similarly strong aversion to bananas for years (more of a texture issue than a flavor one – I love them in smoothies and banana bread!), and keep trying little bites here and there to see if my taste buds have come around. Not there yet, but if I keep trying, maybe bananas and I will sort out our differences some day. LOVE pickles though – crunchy half-sour ones, that is. Not such a big fan of the soggy full sour pickles of the jarred variety. But these look great!

  4. Maddie

    I feel the same way about olives the way that you do about pickles. In my mind, the occasional olive taste-test is a chance to determine whether or not I’ve truly grown up yet. And each time, the answer is no! But I’m very happy to hear that you’ve matured. :)

  5. IslandEAT

    Hi, Shannalee. Good for you for overcoming your aversion and preserving it for months to come! I think food issues are sometimes really about personal growth, rather than taste…now if I could only learn to embrace sweetbreads (of the awful-offal variety) in their natural state.

    Thanks for an engaging post,

    Dan

  6. Angela@spinachtiger

    Have you ever seen Aunt Bee make pickles on Andy of Mayberry. It’s a funny one. I love pickles, never thought to make my own, but even that would be new possibilities and if my husband eats them I’ll be amazed. He’ll eat nothing pickled whatsoever. But, then I’ll eat them all. It’s good to know they are actually serve as a health benefit.

  7. Kelley

    Ahhhh … Jude and I LOVE pickles and just this weekend found a recipe to try on our own. But I feel much better experimenting on something you’ve recommended. Here goes nothing … :)

  8. Jenny

    now I’m sad that I asked for pickling cucumbers to be omitted from my CSA box. I wonder if it is too late to have them added. These sound delicious. Can’t wait to try them!!

  9. heather @ chiknpastry

    I totally feel ya here. I was the same way with raw tomatoes, and just today i posted about our iron chef battle where i CHOSE tomatoes as the ingredient!

    pickles are something awesome though, really. i’m glad you finally came around :).

  10. Shannalee

    Kim, And I’ll note that you are a better woman than I because I have never met a beer I liked. Ever. Cider seems to be the gateway drink, so I’ve been cradling that for a while. Love your love of pickles. And the thought of us eating them together makes me smile now.

    Celeste, Sauerkraut is next on my list! Like these pickles, when it’s made through natural fermenting, it’s loaded with health benefits like probiotics. Soon!

    Kristen, You would love these then – crispy and soooo flavorful. BTW I totally get the bananas thing. I was just eating one at breakfast Sunday, and while I loved it mixed with my yogurt, finishing the other half on its own was eh. I did it, but I can’t say I loved it. Small steps, right?

    Lisa, Well what are you waiting for? A tiny bit of work, a week’s wait and BOOM: you’ll have pickles!

    Maddie, True confession: I hate olives. All of them. STILL. I have been trying, really I have, but the biggest step forward in that arena so far has been eating a sandwich (at Floriole in Chicago!) that had tapenade on it. Loved the sandwich… but mostly in spite of the olive flavor. Can’t win every battle!

    Tim, Mmmm indeed. Thanks for showing me how to do this!

    IslandEAT, Yeah, a lot of it’s in our minds for sure. There are some foods I’ll never like—as in really never—but if something’s genuinely good for me, I won’t go down without a fight. Sweetbreads on the other hand? I am content to live life without them!!

    Angela, I know! The health benefit makes a huge difference to how I view the food. Maybe your husband will come around too. : ) And PS haven’t seen Aunt Bee make them but sounds adorable.

    Niki, You should def try them without dill. Use the same method—water, salt, whatever herbs you want—and see how it goes!

    JessieV, Pickled beets? That sounds like something I should try. I also want to try pickled carrots!

    Whitney, Mmmm it’s the carrots that really got my attention. Soon!

    Michele, If your kitchen is warmer than mine (seriously, mine’s like 60 degrees), you’ll probably just find that the pickles are ready sooner. Where I waited 8 or 9 days, you may only need to wait 4 or 5. Just keep an eye on them on the counter, and when they’re ready, you can stick them in the fridge.

    Kristen, So simple, right? I’d love to hear what you think!

    Kelley, The thought of you and Jude cooking together makes me smile. Hope you get to try this! And hope you LOVE it!

    Jenny, I totally understand; I would have too probably. But honestly, I feel confident telling you now: get your hands on some and try it!

  11. Shannalee

    And Heather! (we commented at the same time) Yay for liking tomatoes! Growing my own helped me in a big way with the same thing. Now I love them on stuff. There seems to be a theme: doing it yourself makes it easier to appreciate the food or results maybe? Hmm.

  12. Kim

    Ok, so, I only started actually LIKING beer because of this one gastropub we go to (www.cafebeire.com), where the owner knows us and makes recommendations. The first time we went, I said, “I do not like beer. What kind of beer do you recommend?” He suggested Duchesse de Bourgogne, which is not the cheapest, but is a great “gateway” beer – far better than cider (I cradled cider for over a year before moving on). It’s delicious, sort of balsamic-y and sort of wine-y. Really tasty stuff. From there, I tried Monk’s Cafe (another red Belgian ale), which is slightly less sweet, and definitely delicious.

    I’ve since moved (mostly) to paler ales – mostly Belgian/Flemish (I seem to like this region). I like Hoegaarden, which is kind of citrusy, and I’ve learned that I like “malty” beers, and not “hoppy” beers. And our place has a “chocolate cake” beer – a small glass of chocolate stout with a shot of raspberry framboise (which, actually, might be another good one for you to try – it actually tastes like sparkling juice). Holy wow.

    Anyway, that’s probably more than you needed to know, but try the Duchesse and see what you think. It’s especially helpful to find a nice little owner-operated gastropub where you can have delicious, wonderful food and chat with the owner about his favorite beers, because then you get personalized advice. And you can usually taste things for free until you find something you like :-)

  13. Jennifer L

    Wow, that sounds really wonderful! I’ll definitely make those when I get the chance.
    I know what you mean about making yourself learn to like things. I’ve done the same thing with several food items, some of which ended up being favorites. It’s worth it!

  14. Evan @swEEts

    I’ve never actually thought to make my own pickles! I’m like you and only in the past few years have I actually started to really enjoy pickles and even then I like the “fresh” kind. My boyfriend did make us pickled watermelon rinds recently though.. talk about trying to make yourself like something :)

  15. Shannalee

    :) Yesssss! And keep in mind, you can check on them along the way. I was talking to my mom the other day, and she was saying she likes hers much less salty than I do. It’s all adjustable. Good luck and can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  16. clare

    Shannalee, I made your pickles a week or two ago, only I replaced the dill with some pricked hot peppers because spicy is so irresistible. They’re quite delicious!, although I have two observations: sliced cucumbers taste better, and, also, a white film is beginning to form in the jars. Is this harmless and beneficial like the similar strands in kombucha? Have you experienced anything like it during your fermenting forays?

    Also, I was touched by the comma ‘shout out.’ Keep up the lovely and frequent writing!

  17. Shannalee

    Clare, Yay! So glad you tried this and that it turned out well! It’s great to hear your observations – when you say sliced taste better, do you mean sliced and pickled? I made one jar of sliced and one whole, and I ended up liking the whole better (which I totally didn’t expect)! As for the white film – it’s hard to say without seeing them, but it sounds like it’s normal. You made the pickles a week or two ago, but the film is forming now… are the pickles in the fridge? If so, the fermenting should be very slowed down; if not, I’d definitely put them in now. Hope that helps, and you are very welcome for the shout-out! : )

  18. clare

    Shanna,

    Due to the fact that I purchased pint-sized mason jars instead of quart, I had to cut my cucumbers in slices, in order to fit. However, I filled several jars, and in some of them I left the cucumbers whole. Where I live is very warm; I put the jars in the fridge after only a few days. I found that the whole cucumbers shriveled a little and didn’t retain their crunch. The sliced, however, did.

    Regarding the commas–I’m finding that when I reread some of my writings, instead of thoughtful, artistic syntax, I’m instead coming across comma splices! I need to be a little more judicious and not get too carried away! How is the self-employment going? I always thought at some point down the line I might be there.

  19. Shannalee

    Ah, that makes sense, Clare! And good to know for anyone else in warm climates and/or with smaller jars!

    Self-employment has its ups and downs, mostly due to my own slow learning, but I can’t complain. All my needs are provided, and I get to make lunch in my own kitchen, and I’ve seen much more of the sun that I usually would. : )

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