Becoming a Pickle Master

Pickles are a perfect treat to share with your guests and to incorporate into your Friday night dinner menu. At the first ever Chicago Nosh:pitality event — hosts and their guests had a chance to learn the craft of pickling and also sample some of the best Chicago-made spirits courtesy of Chicago Distilling Company.

Shabbat is about looking back and looking forward. On Shabbat these concepts are connected, a bit like cucumbers and pickles. Steeped in the brine of generations, Shabbat dinner is an invitation to connect to a shared past and revel in the fulfillment of our present.


So what’s the big secret in becoming a pickle master? Great question. Jonathan Posner of Wandering Foods led our class and has the scoop on pickling cucumbers, carrots, and green beans.

The Basic Pickle 


What you’ll need:

  • English Cucumbers, as many as you like
  • Kosher Salt, 2% of the weight of your cucumbers or ⅓ cup per 1 medium-sized cucumber
  • Sugar, White Vinegar, & Water, equal parts, just enough to cover your cucumbers (start with a cup of each)
  • Colander and multiple mixing bowls

How to do it:

Slice cucumbers ⅙ thick, and toss in the salt. Place the cucumbers over a colander and let sit for 10 minutes. Water will drain through the colander into a mixing bowl below.

In another mixing bowl, stir the sugar, vinegar, and water together to dissolve the sugar. Rinse the cucumbers of their salt, and mix them with the sugar solution. Some of the salt will remain with the cucumbers, but not more than what you’ll need to round out the seasoning. Let the cucumbers stand in your solution for 10 minutes, and enjoy. Store almost indefinitely and taste how the flavor and texture change from a salty, slightly sweet pickle at first, to a very sweet pickle within two weeks, to a classic, sour deli pickle within three weeks.

Spicy Pickle Brine (perfect for carrots)

What you’ll need (yields 4 quarts):

  • 10 Fresh Garlic Cloves
  • 2 teaspoon Whole Black Peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon Whole Juniper Berry
  • 3 teaspoon Yellow Mustard Seed
  • 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Chile Flake
  • ¾ Cup Sugar
  • ¾ Cup Salt
  • 2 liters Water (as Ice)
  • 1.2 liters White Vinegar

How to do it:

Combine all of the ingredients except the ice, and bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Stir to prevent sugar from caramelizing. Pour hot mixture over ice, and stir to dissolve ice. The brine will be sufficiently cold, and  immediately ready to pour over the chosen pickling vegetable of your choice.

NOTE: If you don’t wish to use ice and use water instead, please be sure to let the brine completely cool before adding it to any vegetables. That said, 7 pounds of ice costs less than $2 at the grocery store, and doesn’t take up too much room in your fridge.

Trust us with the carrots on this recipe — you’ll thank us later.

Dill Pickle Brine- The OG

What you’ll need (yields 4 quarts):

  • 3 teaspoon Dried Dill
  • 2 teaspoon Whole Black Peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon Whole Juniper Berry
  • 3 teaspoon Yellow Mustard Seed
  • ½ Cup Fresh Garlic Clove
  • ¾ Cup Sugar
  • ¾ Cup Salt
  • 2 liters, Water (as Ice)
  • 1.2 liters, White Vinegar

How to do it:

Bring all the ingredients except the water to a boil, and dissolve the sugar and salt. Stir to prevent the sugar from caramelizing. Pour the mixture over the ice, and stir to melt the ice. The brine will be sufficiently cold, and  immediately ready to pour over the chosen pickling vegetable of your choice, though this is especially well suited to cucumbers and green beans. This brine, when strained, is also the most excellent chaser to all manner of bourbon, including, Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, and Evan Williams. Jack Daniel’s is technically NOT a bourbon, but this is great with that too. Shorty’s White Whiskey and Ceres’ Vodka from Chicago Distilling are also excellent pairings!

**Variation** Combine the first 5 ingredients here in a container and pour 2 Cups of hot water (from a tea kettle perhaps) over them. Cover, and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar. Pour the whole thing over the remaining 6 Cups of ice or water and dissolve. This is a great method to use if you’re not using ice. You don’t need to heat the vinegar to dissolve the salt and sugar in this variation. Just stir it vigorously. Then, combine the 2 cups of hot liquid with 6 cups of cold water and the vinegar. This will cool down your brine much quicker, but of course not as quick as using ice.

Recipe property of: Wandering Foods Productions, LLC July 15, 2015

Twitter: @WanderingFoods

Instagram: @WanderingFoods 

OneTable empowers people who don’t yet have a consistent Shabbat dinner practice to build one that feels authentic, sustainable, and valuable. The OneTable community is funded to support people (21-39ish), not in undergraduate studies, and without an existing weekly Shabbat practice, looking to find and share this powerful experience.

1 Comment

  • I will be the pickle master

    Pickle Master Reply

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