pickles2A few weeks ago, we received a comment from Jack who made a few tweaks to our favorite recipe for homemade half-sour pickles.  His version added onions and turmeric to the mix, which we expected to give the pickles a more pronounced vegetable flavor.  Considering how popular our pickle post has been, we were eager to see how Jack’s variation differed from the original.

We stopped by the H Street FreshFarm Market and made a beeline for Richfield Farms’ stand at the rear of the market.  Their cucumbers have proven to be perfect for pickling in previous efforts, so we wanted to use them again this time.  While we were there, we may have picked up the ingredients for a batch of gazpacho, too…have we mentioned how often we make it in season?

Jack’s recipe and our thoughts after the jump.

Jar of Jacks PicklesOne of the first things we noticed when we started gathering the ingredients for Jack’s version was the fact that it did away with the pickling spice altogether.  Heresy, right?  You can’t make pickles with pickling spice…can you?

Obviously you can – but the result is naturally very differentIf you’ve ever read the label on a jar of McCormick’s pickling spice, you’ll find that it’s a blend of cinnamon, allspice, mustard seed, coriander, bay leaves, ginger, chilies, cloves, black pepper, mace, cardamom and sulfiting agents – in that order.  All but that last ingredient (preservatives) are spices, and most of them have rather pronounced flavors.  It’s those flavors that give a traditional pickle its subtly spicy bite, allowing you to taste more than just salt, vinegar and dill.  By using a homemade blend of these or other spices, you can adjust the undertones to your taste.

Pile of Jacks PicklesIn Jack’s case, those spice notes were replaced by a garden’s worth of vegetation.  Check out his ingredient list, and note all of his additions which are in boldface:

* 12 Kirby pickles (approximately 4″ long) Leave whole and poke many holes with a knife.
* 8 cloves of garlic (cut in half)
* 2 Tbls. Turmeric
* small onion sliced in rings
* 1/2 Cup Fresh whole basil
* 3 Whole Scallions and 3 Chives
* 1 cup white vinegar
* 1/2 cup kosher salt
* cold water (not chlorinated tastes yucky)
* 2 roots of dill (approximately) or 1 tbl dill weed (not seed)
* BIG glass jar (about a gallon size or mix liquid and a use a bunch of small jars)

Basil.  A small onion.  Scallions.  Chives.  By using these, Jack is ensuring that his pickles retain a crisp, clean flavor while still bringing some bite.  The turmeric gives the cucumbers a pungent bitterness which, when coupled with all that vinegar, is distinctly mustard-like.

Jack goes on to provide directions for how to cure the cukes, as well:

“I used my wife’s crock pot. Rinse with vinegar and lay all the spices in the crock. lay the cukes in the crock and cover with saucer plates to weigh down when brine is poured. Put a plastic bag over crock loosely. Wait 4 days. Awesome!”

Unfortunately we lack a crock pot, so we decided to make our batch in the same jars that we’ve always used for our pickles.  We did, however, leave them uncovered and loosely surrounded by a plastic bag per Jack’s instructions.

And the results?

Closeup on Jacks PickleDefinitely tasty, with a distinctly different flavor.  The garlic and the vinegar are still there, but gone is that sweet-spicy note that comes from the combination of spices like ginger, chilies and cinnamon.  What you get instead is a vegetal heat from the onions and the garlic.  In appearance, these pickles are very similar to the ones our original recipe produces, though they’re not as vibrantly green because of all that turmeric in the brine.  They still retain their crunch, thankfully, and they hold up well to crinkle-cutting using the mandoline slicer (which makes them even more fun to eat, in our opinion).

Hats off to Jack for his recommendation.  We’re glad we gave it a try, and we would definitely encourage you to do the same if you’ve enjoyed our original half-sours post.

If you’ve got variations on any of the other recipes we’ve made – or if you’ve got a recipe for something else entirely that you’d like us to take a crack at, please feel free to leave it in the comments or email it to us at capitalspice@gmail.com.  We really do appreciate the feedback , so please keep it coming!

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