Recipe shamelessly stolen from Flexitarian Gracie in Life
Photos by me (click all photos to embiggen)
... I'm making these right now myself, and they're so entirely addictive that I just had to share them. Besides, pickles are holiday food... kinda. Pickles need to be on your holiday table, right next to the candied sweet potatoes and the tofurkey. [Liz: yuuuck] In fact, I'm pretty sure that if kids aren't allowed to root around in a pickle dish with black-olive-covered fingers, they'll grow up warped and angry. And who wants that on their conscience?
.... I did not invent this recipe. But I wish I had. And if I ever find the person who did, I'll recommend them for canonization.
Now, my interpretation of the recipe....well, instructions. With photo illustrations.
- One big jar of the cheapest, rubberiest whole dill pickles1 you can find. Back to Flexitarian Gracie's advice
- One head of garlic
- Several pounds of sugar--I recommend baker's sugar
- Your favorite hot sauce. Gracie recommends Tabasco; I prefer Cholula. Just don't use a supermarket brand.
Now. I cannot emphasize to you enough that these need to be cheap pickles. The soggy kind of pickles. The ones that sit in dusty rows on the bottom of the pickle shelf because outside of a General Store no one would ever actually want to eat one.... If you go out and buy the expensive Clausson, guaranteed-crisp pickles then you are setting yourself up for an Epic Pickle Fail, and I won't be held responsible. Get the cheap ones, and make sure they're whole.
- Drain the pickles -- that's right, just discard that cheap pickle brine
- Rinse the jar and set aside, together with the lid. You are going to put the pickles back into the jar
- Slice the whole pickles into 1 inch chunks2 (update-- trim the stem end and the blossom end so all slices have two cut sides exposed to the syrup).
- Separate the head of garlic into cloves; lightly smash the cloves, trim the stem and head end, and peel. Some people don't know about smashing garlic cloves to peel them. Instructions follow.
- This head of garlic is a little tired. I discarded the cloves that showed any green, as they tend to be bitter or have an off taste
- Here's a clove of garlic, ready for the smashing treatment
- How to smash: using a cleaver (best) or large flat bladed knife, put the knife over the garlic clove
- and press down. Sometimes I use my fist on the flat of the blade.
- the smashing treatment loosens the skin. Then
- Trim the stem end
- Trim the root end
- and use your hands to peel the skin off. If you find the texture off-putting, wear gloves.
- Start layering
- into the empty pickle jar
- One layer of pickle slices
- 2 to 4 peeled garlic cloves
- 2 to 4 shakes of hot sauce
- cover the pickles with a thick layer of sugar
- repeat until all the pickles are packed into the jar.
- you might have to use the butt end of a spatula to pack the sugar around the pickles enough to close the jar.
- Once you are done, put the lid back on the jar. That's right, there will be no liquid in the jar, just sugar and pickles when you start. Don't fret.
- (you can see the last shake of hot sauce running down the side)
- Put the jar in the refrigerator (I usually date it) That's day 1.
- Taste/texture test after 3 hours: Pickles are already much crisper and the flavor is more complex. Actually, the pre-treatment pickles were pretty nasty....as the center part of the pickles-under-development still are.
- Day 2: Turn the jar lid side down. If you think it's going to leak, set it in a bowl or something to catch the slight leakage
- Day 3: Turn the jar lid side up.
- Uh oh. This is when I started testing the pickles for deliciousness, but I didn't take a photo of the pickle jar. Here's what was left at the end of day 3
- Day 4: Turn the jar lid side down. If you think it's going to leak, set it in a bowl or something to catch the slight leakage
- Day 5: Turn the jar lid side up. Try to stop everybody from devouring the pickles before you want to serve them to company.
OK, so I didn't wait the whole 5 days. There were a few oddities:
Some of the pickle slices, even those with two cut sides, were sort of shrivelled up1 (like some Japanese pickles) but were still crunchy. The slices that had only one cut side were still too sour/dill in flavor.
Back to Flexitarian Gracie:
The way the magic works is that the sugar is going to pull a lot of the water out of the soggy, cheap pickles, creating its own brine, and transforming those mush nuggets into crispy chunks o'goodness. Within a few hours your jar will be full of liquid. It's like a pickle miracle!
1yikes. I used kosher3 dills; this recipe from Deep South Dish said not to use kosher dills. I guess we will see in a few days.
Do not, however, get the kosher dills. They don't react well to this process and just turn into a shriveled mess. I once tried the large jar of Great Value dill pickles and they reacted the same way even though they were not marked kosher, so just a caution there
2 Here's were I made a mistake. I left the stem and flower ends on, which meant that the syrup couldn't penetrate easily. Slice off the stem end & flower end so all slices have two faces.
3 It turns out "kosher dill" may or may not mean "kosher" -- what it does mean is that there's garlic in the brine and in the jar.