I’ve been making pickles of two variations, sweet and garlicky, for some time now — and have been asked numerous times for the recipes, so I have decided to share a little bit about how to do so yourselves. You can try this at home.

I’ve learned through my father-in-law who takes pickle making very seriously, a tradition that is deeply entrenched in his Polish roots, that one does not simply make Polish pickles.

And the question remained, if I, with my deeply Sephardic roots would truly be able to rise to the challenge.

Lo and behold, I have, and live to tell the tale. I will now reveal the much-coveted, and long guarded secret to the perfect Polish pickle — in its two beloved variations, sweet and garlicky.

Likely the most critical aspect of making pickles is the preparation. My FIL will tell you if you do not select the perfect cucumber & create the most sterile environment for your pickle-making, well then — you are not worthy of making pickles. Proceed with caution.

Preparation

Choosing the Right Cucumber

One of the pivotal decisions you will make when prepping for pickle making is in choosing the right cucumber for the job. Today there are prepackaged baby cucumbers (albeit more expensive) that are a pretty good bet for making pickles, that’s the easy route. But if you want to go renegade, you can choose your own cucumbers — a more advanced skill. The best variation would be gherkin or Persian cucumbers, that are medium length and girth. Approximately 7–8 CM long, and 3CM wide. If they’re too fat they’ll be watery and not crispy enough, too tall won’t fit in the jar well and will also not have the necessary crispness.

Sterilization

Sterility is eventually what will increase the longevity of your pickles lifespan, and ensure their crispness for an extended period of time. Since, bacteria is eventually what will cause homemade anything that doesn’t have preservatives to spoil more quickly (pretty obviously) — you need to preempt this when making pickles, especially because of the fermentation. So aside from the ingredients you’ll need for the pickles themselves, below is a list of household utensils you’ll need.

  • Rubber gloves
  • A hermetically sealable jar
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Strainer

Recipe #1 — Garlic Pickles (2–3 Days Fermentation)

  • 1–2 Packages Baby Cucumbers (or ~8–10 Gherkin/Persian Cucumbers)
  • 1 Package of Dill
  • 1 Hot Green Pepper (Gutted and seedless if preferred not spicy — for spicy pickles you can leave some seeds)
  • 1 Head of Garlic
  • Celery
  • Bay Leaves
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Whole Allspice / English Pepper (~10 pieces)
  • Salt
  • Regular White Vinegar
  • Cold Water
  • Boiling Water

Before you get started with making the actual pickles start by sterilizing everything that will be used in the process.

Wash the vegetables and herbs very well and place them in a strainer.

1. Cut the garlic head in half, and chop 2–3 celery stalks into large chunks, leave the leafy part whole. Place these into the strainer as well.

2. Boil water, put on the gloves (and keep them on for the entire pickle making) and then sterilize the jar by spilling boiling water all over it, and then pour some inside and seal the jar for a few minutes.

3. Very carefully shake the water inside the jar so it covers all areas (including the cap) and let the boiling water sterilize the closed jar for a 2–3 minutes. Use caution when opening the jar after it has been sterilized. (My FIL puts the jar in the oven on a low setting for a few minutes, but I’m alway afraid it will explode, so I use the water method).

4. Boil more water and pour it all over the vegetables in the strainer, as well as the measuring cup and spoon.

Once you have sterilized vegetables and utensils, you can start making the pickles.

Steps for Actual Pickle-Making

1. Place the pepper at the bottom of the jar, and pad with half the dill and celery leaves. Throw in half the garlic at the bottom.

2. Arrange the cucumbers standing around the jar, leave room for the gutted and seedless pepper. (If you prefer halved cucumbers — you can do so as well, but cut them before the sterilization).

3. On top of the cucumbers throw some mustard seeds and couple of bay leaves some celery pieces and the remaining garlic.

4. For each cup of water add a heaping tablespoon of salt (or according to taste). Add one cup of cold water at a time, and each spoonful of salt individually.

5. When you reach 2/3 full, pad the top with some more celery leaves, and the remaining dill to close.

Eventually there will need to be this ratio of water to salt in the jar, even if the number of cups isn’t even. (So if there are 3.5 Cups water — add 3.5 TBSP salt). Leave 1/3 cup room at the top, and close with some white vinegar (1/3 C or 3 TBSP or so). Hermetically seal the jar — and then shake the ingredients around a bit.

Leave the jar closed and in a cool place for 2–3 days, or until you see/hear it start to ferment. (It will hiss).

Rotate the jar so it sometimes sits on its top and sometimes on its bottom over the course of the days, so the flavor is evenly distributed. Once ready you can transfer to a container and refrigerate.

That’s it — enjoy your garlicky pickles.

Recipe #2 — Sweet (Kosher) Pickles (1–2 Days Fermentation)

  • 8–10 Cucumbers
  • 1 Package of Dill
  • 1 Head of Garlic
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion
  • Celery
  • Bay Leaves
  • 1 TSP Mustard Seeds
  • 1 TSP Celery Seed
  • Whole Allspice / English Pepper (~10 pieces)
  • Salt
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Pinch of Turmeric (for color)
  • Cold Water
  • Boiling Water

The sweet pickles are good solution for when you have too many cucumbers and they start to go off, and you don’t want to trash them. Like the previous recipe, you will also need to ensure sterility with these as well.

1. Slice the onion into rings, as well as the cucumbers. Cut the garlic head in half, cut 1–2 celery stalks into large pieces and put it all in the strainer along with the herbs.

2. Again boil water and sterilize the jar, utensils and vegetables. (Read in the recipe above).

3. Throw the allspice/pepper at the bottom of the jar, pad with dill and celery, throw in half a head of garlic, and start tossing in the cucumber and onion until 2/3 full. Add 1 TSP mustard seed, 2–3 bay leaves, 1 TSP celery seed, and remaining garlic to the top and some celery pieces (optional).

In this recipe you will need nearly equal parts vinegar and sugar — and this is very much according to taste. (So start with less).

4. Add 1 Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar to the jar, and then dissolve 1/2 cup of sugar in 1/2 cup of hot water. Once the sugar is dissolved add an additional 1/2 cup cold water to the cup and add to the jar.

5. Add 1 heaping TBSP of salt into the jar, and a pinch of turmeric for color.

6. Close the jar and mix the ingredients a bit.

7. Now, dissolve another 1/3 Cup sugar in equal parts water, and start adding the sugar water according to taste. Once the pickle water is equally tangy/sweet/salty as you’d like, add the remaining celery leaves and dill to cover, and fill to the top with cold water and seal the jar. Again mix the ingredients well.

Rotate top to bottom each 1/2 day. These will not ferment and hiss, so once they look greenish/yellow and edible you can move to a container and refrigerate.

That’s all folks — enjoy. Let me know how they come out!

A little zany somewhat brainy, and a tireless crusader for social justice.