Half-sours: Quite honestly I was near to giving up on the possibility of doing our own pickles for Popstrami. Previous attempts had not gone well, and I’d put that down to the rather sad, floppy cucumber specimens I had found in ethnic supermarkets. Clearly cucumbers are not in season right now and they don’t take well to sitting around. Salvation has come in the unlikeliest of places – Costco. I’ve never been to this gigantic food wholesaler/cash and carry before (and perhaps won’t again) but it really is quite impressive, even if you don’t much like the idea. Cut a long story short, they had pickling cucumbers and they were impressively firm. When I got them home I was relieved to find they weren’t bitter either, so I have high hopes of getting some decent half-sours out of them.
There are various recipes for pickles – the idea here is that they ferment in a cool but not cold environment until you are happy with the taste, and then they go in the fridge to store. I’m using a variation on this recipe – approximately a 4% brine, but I have omitted the bay leaves as I find these are such a dominating flavour (particularly as my bay tree produces huge, flavoursome leaves). I like my pickles to taste mainly of dill and garlic. Michael Ruhlman also has a couple of useful blog posts here and here. I’m a beginner here so I don’t have much more to add. Oh, except to say I like to add more fresh dill to the brine as the process of boiling the brine tends to turn that to a rather dull green colour.
Well, if you want to know how they turned out, turn up next Sunday 13th!