Bread-and-Butter Pickles

Last weekend, I was delighted and amazed to find the most perfect little pickling cucumbers I have ever seen at the Los Ranchos Farmers' Market! Cucumbers, this early?? East Mountain Organics has a new greenhouse, and they're trying out these adorable gherkins. They are incredibly crunchy and sweet, small and dense - the smaller the better for pickling.

I've written about fermented pickles before, but here's a nice quick recipe for sweet pickles, adapted from Linda Ziedrich's The Joy of Pickling. The ice technique helps keep the cucumbers extra-crisp. I like my pickles a bit less sweet, so I use the lesser amount of sugar. They taste best after resting about 3 weeks to let the flavors infuse, but they are still quite delicious if you just want to eat them right away. These sweet, spiced slices are great on burgers or roast pork sandwiches.

2 pounds 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
1 medium onion
2 1/2 T. pickling or kosher salt
2 trays of ice cubes
2 T. yellow mustard seeds
1/2 t. celery seeds
1/2 t. red chile flakes
1 1/2 C. cider vinegar
1/2 to 1 C. brown sugar
1/2 t. ground turmeric
1/8 t. ground cloves or ginger

Gently wash the cucumbers and remove the ends. Slice them into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Quarter the onions and slice them thinly. Toss the cucumbers and onions with salt, then cover them with ice cubes. Let stand 3 to 4 hours, then drain.

Combine the vegetables with all remaining ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan (not aluminum or copper), and bring to a boil. Pack into jars with enough liquid to cover. If you wish, you can seal them with two piece lids and process them in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (this time is adjusted for Albuquerque's altitude – add 5 more minutes for Santa Fe). This extra cooking tends to make them less crunchy, so I prefer to just refrigerate them. Makes about 3 pints.


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