As I mentioned, I bought some fresh pickling cucumbers at Dilorio's farm stand on Monday. I made homemade Kosher pickles with them. Kosher pickles are fermented -- there is no cooking or canning involved. You put the cucumbers in a brine and let them ferment in a dark place. That's it. Lower East Side pickle-makers fermented their pickles in barrels (as in the movie Crossing Delancey).
I watched Alton Brown make kosher pickles on television one time. He had an excellent method. He did precise measurements of the salt and water to get the brine solution perfect. And he submerged the cucumbers in a plastic tub, putting a Ziploc bag full of saline solution on top to keep them submerged. The submersion thing is important because if a cucumber floats above the water line, it will sometimes develop a white moldy growth that's pretty disgusting.
I love Kosher pickles, but I am way too lazy for all of that. Here's my technique: First you get an old Kosher pickle bottle. I keep a couple in the cupboard. Kosher pickle bottles have shoulders so that the pickles, if properly packed, will stay under the brine. Once I get the pickles packed, I add one and half tablespoons of pickling salt and one sliced garlic clove to the bottle. After that, I let the hot water tap run until its really hot and I fill up the bottle. Then I shake it to dissolve the salt. Inevitably, the pickles come loose because I am not really all that great a pickle packer. So I cheat and wedge them back in there with chunks of onion. Then I put the jar in the back of my pantry for a few days until the water turns cloudy and the pickles are fermented. Pretty scientific, huh?
To find out if they are done, you open the bottle and eat one. The pickles from Monday were fermented to half-sours by Thursday, so I put them in the fridge to stop the fermenting process. If I had left them until Saturday, they would have been full sours (I already had a bottle of full sours). The half sours tasted great, and the onion wedges were good too. The nice thing about making pickles this way is that there is no clean-up -- they are already in the jar. The downside is that sometimes you don't get all the salt dissolved and the bottoms of your pickles taste saltier than the tops. There is also a high failure rate with the white moldy gunk.
Hey, I've got some crunchy pickles for the weekend, so I'm happy.