We’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen this week at DnU, and I am no exception. I have a small garden, and I was determined to grow cucumbers for pickling this year. I bought a Boston Pickling cucumber plant, an heirloom vegetable, that’s popular because the cucumbers tend to be smaller than average and are very receptive to pickling spices.
In my quest for pickles, I wondered if I could use beer to brine instead of the traditional water and vinegar. Thinking that I was the greatest culinary genius in the world, I did a quick Internet search. Not surprisingly, I was beaten to the punch by one Sam Calagione of a little-known company called Dogfish Head Brewery. He recently teamed up with Brooklyn Brine, a damn fine pickle company, to create a pickle using his 60 Minute IPA.
I pushed past my disappointment of achieving pickle greatness. Instead, I watched a couple of videos on Brooklyn Brine and some more internet searches later I was ready to create.
First, I needed two medium sized cucumbers for this recipe. Oh, and what they don’t tell you about harvesting cukes is that they are covered in spines/thorns. Lots of them. I needed to use a glove and a pair of sharp scissors to get them off the vine. Now in hand, I prepared them by washing them in cold water with a vegetable scrubber; the little spiny buggers popped right off. I was thorough, because the last thing you need is to eat a spiny pickle. Once cleaned off, I put the cukes to the side.
This next big choice was the beer. I decided to use a bottle of Captain Lawrence Kolsch. I’m not a hop-head, but I wanted something that was clean with enough kick that the beer would come through. (Oh ok, you got me. I also had five bottles in my fridge, and I wanted to use one up.)
Ok. Let’s get ready to pickle. This is what I used:
Drunken Half-Sour Cukes
- 1 16 oz. Mason jar with lid (Wash and clean thoroughly in soap and hot water before use)
- 1 medium sauce pan
- 1 12 oz. bottle of beer
- 4 oz. water
- 1 heaping Tbs kosher salt
- ¼ tsp black peppercorn
- ½ tsp coriander seed
- ½ yellow mustard seed
- ¼ tsp caraway seed (A Brooklyn Brine special ingredient)
- ¼ tsp red pepper flake
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 or 6 springs of fresh dill
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Pour the beer into sauce pan on medium-high heat. Add water and salt into a small bowl. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved. (Adding the salt directly to the beer causes it to react and foam up. It’s not a big deal, but salt can pit cookware, so I find it better to dilute the salt and then add it to the beer.) Bring to a low simmer, and be careful not to let it boil over.
As the beer is heating, add the peppercorns, coriander, mustard, caraway, red pepper, bay leaf, sprigs of dill, and the two cloves of garlic to the Mason jar. Cut cleaned cucumbers into spears, and place them upright in the jar. Remove beer from heat. Carefully and slowly, ladle the hot beer into the jar to cover the cucumbers completely, bringing the liquid almost to the top of the jar. Put the rubber gasket on to the jar and, with a towel, because that glass jar is now hotter then hell, slowly and carefully screw the lid on to seal the jar.
Let the jar cool to room temperature somewhere safe. It’s going to be hot for a while. Once cooled, refrigerate and let it continue to brine for a minimum of three days and up to a week. The pickles should be good to eat for another week or so, but these jars have not been properly sealed or sterilized so they must stay refrigerated.
What’s great is that this recipe is easily adjustable. Want more garlic? Add another clove. More heat? Add a jalapeño. Try it with different beers for different flavor profiles. It seems daunting at first, but after the first time, I promise, you’re going to be a mad pickler.