Summer is pickling time.
From left to right: dill pickles, pickled banana peppers, spicy carrot pickles, dill beans, and that’s beet kvass in the back.
These are all fermented pickles â€” brine pickles, as my great-grandmother would say.
To make brine pickles, put vegetables and spices in a jar or crock (it works better if you put the spices in first, so they don’t float to the top so much), and pour brine over them until they’re submerged. Keep them submerged (with a jar or a rock or a plate â€” something nonreactive) while the pickle ferments. Cover the top with a cloth to keep the flies out. Take a peek every day, and skim off any scum or mold that develops.
How long the vegetables take to pickle depends on how strong a brine you use. For medium-small pieces of vegetable, I like about 2â€“3 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. This is a light brine, and the pickles should be ready in less than a week at summer room temperatures (60 at night; 80 in the daytime, where I live). If you live in a warmer place, or you want the pickles to keep a long time, use more salt.
Spice mixes depend on your taste.
For dill (cucumber) pickles, I like dill, garlic, peppercorns, cinnamon, allspice, hot pepper, bay. I use pretty much the same mix for dill beans.
For the banana peppers, I used onions and bay leaves. (Note that if you want thick-skinned peppers like these to ferment/pickle properly, you need to slice them open so the brine can get inside.)
For the carrots (which are an attempt to emulate the lovely pickled carrots at Tartine in San Francisco), I used a lot of hot pepper, onions, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme.
I don’t add spices to the beet kvass, which is a beet-flavored drink, rather than a pickle, really.
To keep pickles crisp (especially important for cucumbers), add a handful of grape, cherry, oak or other tannic leaves to the mix.