Making Our Own Pickles

My sister in law sent me on my move to Seattle with some spicy pickled cucumbers from her own garden. Three weeks before, the day I decided I was moving, I had been pigging out on pickled zucchini at a brewery in my hometown. Over the course of time, Mr. Moon came to learn of my love for all things briny, and one of our favorite snacks is what we call a "pickle plate." Thus dubbed because the only consistent thing is pickles.

Pickle plates usually have, besides pickled cucumbers, cheese and/or meat of some kind. Sometimes it's tinned herring, sometimes it's creamy Greek caviar (from the bargain bin at the discount store, isn't it always there that you find some of your favorite foods you'll never find again?), sometimes it's peppered salami. Sharp cheddar, a good gouda, any kind of cheese spread, you name it. Usually, though not always, it involves crackers of some kind. And recently more often than not, it's also included some other kind of pickled vegetables.

This is the second or third time I made pickled zucchini, and I'm still working out the kinks. But here's the low down:

First, we save any and all pickle juice that's leftover from commercially processed pickled anything (cucumbers and garlic, mostly). Some of that does get dumped into bloody marys, but not all of it.

Next we cut zucchini into spears. Rounds is fine too, and would probably be a good idea, because I do love me some pickles on my sandwiches. And I especially love pickled zucchini, because it has a firmer texture than cucumber if you don't pickle it too long. I made pickled carrot once, it didn't turn out well. I clearly need to do a different pickling process for that.

I do add stuff to the pickle juice to boost the flavor a bit. Pickling spices, dill weed, celery seed, garlic, whatever strikes my fancy. Then pack 'em in and let 'em soak for about a week. Unfortunately for me, we made so many this time that they're going to over-pickle before I'm done with them. So I may need to make something that can use a relish of some kind with them.

In this instance, I had four jars of spears and only two jars of liquid. So the other two I added some salt and vinegar to them, along with some other spices, and figured I'd see what would happen.

Drum roll please...
Left to right:

  • Mustard and Celery seed with rock salt, and 50/50 white and cider vinegar
  • Dilly garlic: Leftover pickled garlic juice, dill, pickling spice, and a splash of apple cider vinegar to cover the tops
  • Spicy Jalapeño: Leftover jalapeño and dill pickle juices, pickling spice, and a couple actual slices of jalapeño
  • Spicy pepper: crushed red pepper, rock salt, 50/50 vinegar mix. 

The ones with rock salt and vinegar were way too briny. I probably should have picked one or the other, and still diluted the vinegar with water a bit. Most home pickling recipes call for heating the vinegar, but for throwing these in the fridge I don't do that. I just dump the veggies in and let them soak. But for carrots, I think I'd prefer to simmer them in the brine for a little while before cold packing them.

One of these days I'm going to get the chance to lacto-ferment some veggies. Sounds like a project to add to next year's goals list.
What do you do with your leftover pickle juice? Drink it? Re-use it? Or throw it away when the pickles get a funny layer of scum on the top? Are you working on making a list of goals for next year?


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