Pickles!

One of the things I've missed most since moving to Paris 5 years ago (besides family, friends, mexican food, and Californian beaches) is pickles. The French have a very cute little cornichon, which is lovely along with cheese and, for those of the meat persuasion, un peu de charcuterie- but it hasn't ever come close to rivaling my adoration of good old dill pickles.

I've tried to find them here, and it may very well be possible to get some- but I never managed too. Even when I asked at the American restaurant chain in Paris they told me they had theirs imported from the States. You can imagine my shock and awe, therefore, when I realized just this week how easy they are to make, and how amazing they taste when they are made from good, local, organic ingredients.
As you may remember from my last blog entry I found some lovely little cucumbers and fresh dill at the Marché Raspail last week, and I couldn't wait to get them into some brine to start pickling. It is really easy to do, and you can modify to make a few or many. I'm working with not a lot of space and even less material, so I had to take the proportions down a notch. The recipe I used is from Sandor Ellix Katz's amazing book Wild Fermentation (under "sour pickles"). I'm giving the proportions I used to make three pickles in one container, but you can adjust accordingly.
What you need:
-A glass, ceramic, or food-safe plastic crock
-Something to put in the crock to push down your pickles, so they're constantly covered with brine, but still have access to air
-A dishrag to throw over the whole thing, so no dust gets in
Ingredients:
-3 baby cucumbers, not the huge ones they sell in France, really the little ones, like half the size of what you usually see.
-2-3 tablespoons of sea salt
-half a bunch of fresh dill
-4 cloves of garlic
- A handful of grape or oak leaves (these preserve the crunchiness of the pickles, I'm lucky to have a grapevine- if anyone in Paris needs leaves, send an e-mail and I'll hook you up)
-Some peppercorns (I didn't use any because we don't have any- my pickles still turned out fine)

Step 1: Rinse your cucumbers and make sure their blossoms are taken off at the end
Step 2: Dissolve your salt in 8 cups of water (I think that's about 2 liters in French talk). Stir until it's dissolved.
Step 3: Clean out your receptacle and throw in your dill, garlic, grape leaves, and peppercorn if you have it.
Step 4: Get the cucumbers in there, too.
Step 5: Pour your water/salt mixture (brine) over the lot. Then put your weight on top. I use a measutring cup that fits well in my little container, if you're thinking bigger, you can use a plate in a big bucket of brine. Put some water (or what's left of your brine) in the weight so that it puches down your cucumbers, making them totally submerged.

Step 6: Cover the ensemble with your dishrag, this prevents dust from getting in.
Step 7: Check on your crock everyday for at least a week. If it needs more brine, throw some in there. It is totally possible that you gets some white stuff whilling on top. That's okay, skim it off and let your cucumbers cocoon until they become beautiful pickle butterflies.
Finally, taste a pickle (after one week) if you're liking what you taste, you've got a finished product. Fridge them and enjoy it while it lasts. Of not, give them some time to sour up.

I've found that even if the pickles end up with a little bit of a squishy center, the taste isn't compromised. My pickles were really salty, so if you want a more subtle taste you should probably put less salt in your brine.
I am a whole new ex-pat after learning this simple and savory method for bringing pickles into my home. I hope you enjoy yours as much as I did!