Kick-Ass Westport River Barrel Cukes
Since I am staying on the Westport River, floating literally on a houseboat , I thought it appropriate to include my friend the Pickle Man, Dan George’s Kick-Ass Westport River Barrel Cukes. That’s a mouthful and so are these pickles. These babies are everything you want in a pickle, puckery, tangy, crunchy and bursting with flavor. They take you right back to the barrel pickles you had as a kid (if you were so lucky). I haven't seen barrel pickles in years, I'm sure some board of health zealot banned them. So....make your own.
If you eat a pickle in Westport, odds are Dan made it. He makes all the pickles at my favorite Westport restaurant, The Back Eddy. When they seat you at The Back Eddy they bring you a bowl of bread and butter pickles instead of a basket of bread and butter. That’s my kind of restaurant.
This is from Dan’s’ book Quick Pickles Easy Recipes with Big Flavor published by Chronicle Books.
- These are fermented pickles so no hot or cold baths required.
- Grape leaves (or sour cherry or oak) are added for their tannins which help keep the pickles crisp.
- Cutting the blossom end of the cucumber also adds crunch.
- 4 QUARTS
- 4 ½ lbs pickling cucumbers, 3-5 inches long, blossom end removed
- 1 or 2 handfuls small fresh chilies, stabbed or slit twice
- 1 large head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
- 1 cup peeled, grated fresh horseradish
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced into 1 ½ inch disks
- 1 handful dill heads or fronds (optional)
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, cracked
- 4 bay leaves, in crumbles
- 1 handful grape, sour cherry or oak leaves, washed
- 8 cups water
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 5 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
- In a giant bowl combine cukes, chilies, garlic, horseradish, onion, dill mustard seed, coriander, peppercorns, bay leaf and grape leaves. Pack this mixture into a one gallon crock or wide mouth jar.
- Cover the cukes with a plate and weight the plate with a clean stone, a brick or whatever you have available; the idea is to keep the cukes submerged as they pickle. Add enough of the brine to cover the cukes by two inches or more.
- Cover with a clean cloth and store at room temp for 4-7 days, taking care to keep the contents submerged at all times. Skim any foam that may form on the brine's surface.
- The pickles are done when their pale green color is mostly the same inside and out -or when they taste so good your discipline fails.
- They will keep covered and refrigerated for a month. The grape leaves help them stay crisp.