Makes 6 pints
This old-time recipe is easy, and the pickles are always crisp. The peppercorns, cherry leaves, and peppers are optional; the grape leaves, garlic, and dill are not. When they’re available, I prefer to use heads of fresh dill rather than seeds because the heads are so much prettier.
• 6 fresh grape leaves
• 4 pounds thin, straight, 4-inch-long pickling cucumbers
• 1 quart apple cider vinegar
• 1 quart water
• 1/2 cup pickling salt
• 12 whole black peppercorns
• 6 cloves garlic, peeled
• 12 fresh cherry leaves
• 6 small fresh or dried hot peppers, and/or 12 half-inch-wide strips red bell pepper
• 6 heads fresh dill, or 3 tablespoons dill seeds
1. At least 8 hours or the night before you make the pickles, soak the grape leaves in cold water to cover.
2. Wash the cucumbers, removing any stems or blossoms. If desired, cut into spears. Combine the vinegar, water, and salt in a nonreactive pan. Over high heat, bring just to a boil, stirring until the salt is dissolved.
3. Prepare the jars, lids, and boiling-water bath. In each hot, dry jar, place two peppercorns, one clove garlic, two cherry leaves, one hot pepper and/or two bell pepper strips, and one head fresh dill or 1/2 tablespoon dill seeds. Pack the jars with the cucumbers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Fill with the boiling vinegar mixture, just covering the cucumbers. Top with a drained grape leaf. Wipe the rims with a clean towel, and attach the lids securely.
4. Place the jars in the boiling-water bath, and when the water returns to a boil, process for 15 minutes. Remove the jars, cool, label, and store. Wait at least a month before sampling to allow the flavors to blend. (Adapted from Recipes from an American Herb Garden.)
Maggie Oster writes extensively about herbs, food, gardening, cooking, landscape design, flowers, and crafts. Her books include Recipes from an American Herb Garden (New York: Macmillan, 1993) and Herbal Vinegar (Pownal, Vermont: Storey Communications, 1994). When she’s not on the road, she’s in her garden or kitchen in Indiana or Kentucky.
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