These crisp pickles are high on my list of nibbles and noshes to take on a picnic or a barbecue. They’re the perfect cool companion to spicy barbecue or lunch-counter favorites like a thick pastrami on rye. And while pickling can seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. You can make these crunchy spears overnight with a handful of pickling cukes. The best part? No canning required.
This recipe makes a manageable amount of pickles. (16 pickle spears, to be exact. That’s 4 pickling cukes, quartered.) It’s easily doubled or tripled, should your pickle demand be greater.
They get a good balance of old-fashioned pickle flavor from fennel, coriander, dill, mustard—and subtle heat from a smidge of chili flakes. The brine is heated briefly to help coax pungent flavor out of the dried herbs.
A heady mixture of rice wine vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, and sugar give these pickles a hint of sweetness and good amount of tang.
Pickling spice and everything nice
Hey, Mouse! What are all those seeds and spices, anyway?
Dill seed is brown-ish and flat, and is actually the dried fruit of the dill plant. Heating it brings out its flavor.
Fennel seed is the seed of the bulb-less common fennel plant (as opposed to the Florence fennel, which has a bulb—as well as stalks and fronds). It’s used in both sweet and savory recipes.
Mustard seeds come in two main varieties—white (a.k.a. yellow) and brown (a.k.a.) Asian. White seeds like the ones I bought are larger than brown ones, and are the typical seed used in most American mustards.
These seeds come from the Coriander plant, which is more commonly known as cilantro in the U.S. Their flavor is a little lemon-y with a hint of caraway. Coriander frequently shows up in pickles, mulled wine, and baked goods.
Now, this isn’t a typical pickling spice—but it is one of my all-time favorite ways to add a little heat to a dish. These Turkish chili flakes taste kind of like ancho peppers.
Garlic cloves, halved
No pickles (at least at The Mouse House) would be quite the same without garlic. To prep the garlic, nip the ends off each clove with a knife. Remove the peel. Slice each clove in half.
I top off my pickles with a bunch of fresh dill. I use it at the end like this, since (unlike dried dill seed) the fresh herb loses its flavor quickly when heated.
Get to the pickles, Mouse. Yep, yep! Here you go.
Quick Fresh Pickles
4 large pickling cucumbers
1 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
3 Tbls. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt (for the cukes) + 2 Tbls. kosher salt (for the brine)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1/4 tsp. dill seed
1/4 tsp. Aleppo chili flakes
1/4 tsp. coriander seed
1/4 tsp. fennel seed
1/4 tsp. mustard seed
1 bunch of fresh dill
Yields 16 pickle spears
Slice and salt the cucumbers
Grab your pickling cukes. Scrub them well under cold water, then dry them off.
Slice each cucumber in half.
Then slice each side in half again, so you wind up with quarters.
Repeat with the other cucumbers. Put the cucumber spears in a medium-sized bowl.
Sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.
Mix the cucumber spears around well to distribute the salt.
Let the cucumber spears sit in the bowl like this, on the counter, for about an hour. Salting the cukes like this helps draw out excess water—which in turn helps keep your pickles crunchy.
After about an hour, your cukes will have let off a fair amount of water. Drain that off and discard.
Make the brine for the pickles
Put the rice wine vinegar, water, and white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar) in a medium-sized pot.
Toss in the sugar and 2 Tbls. of kosher salt.
Set the pot on the stove over high heat. Whisk to combine.
Whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
Bring the mixture up to a boil.
When it starts to bubble, toss in the garlic, coriander seed, fennel seed, dill seed, mustard seed, and Aleppo chili flakes.
Whisk to combine. Take the pot off the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes to help release the flavor of the herbs.
Pour the brine over the cucumbers
In the meantime, pack your cucumber spears into a smallest bowl that will hold them all. You want them to be fairly close together so that they’re all covered by the brine.
Pour the hot brine over the cucumber spears.
Trim your bunch of fresh dill so that it will fit in your bowl. Lay it on top of the pickles, so that they’re covered, like this:
Let them sit on the counter like this until the brine cools to room temperature.
When it’s cool, push down on the mixture with your hand.
You want to submerge the pickles and douse the dill with brine.
Soak the cucumbers in brine overnight
Wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.
Set it in the fridge overnight to let the brine soak into the cukes.
Serve & enjoy
The next day, unwrap your pickles.
And that’s it!
No really, that’s it! When you’re ready to serve, fish the pickles out of the brine and heap them up on a platter along with pieces of garlic and a few strands of dill.
Pickles will keep for a few weeks in the fridge�if they last that long.