August 14, 2009


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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. They will keep covered and refrigerated for a month. The grape leaves help them stay crisp.


  1. these look pretty unbelievable...I just tried my first batch of fermented pickles (garlic and tarragon) and am now completely smitten. This will be my next forray into that world!

  2. They are delish and very easy to make. Dive in and please let me know your results!

  3. Hello! I just wanted to let you know that I linked to your blog on my Design*Sponge column today! I'm really loving all you do!

    My best,
    Ashley English

  4. These look really good. My family is doing a lot of canning this year and probably will be doing our pickles next week - thanks for the recipe!

    We also got these shirts to wear this year - they say "Yes, We Canned!" - we think they're funny anyway. They sell them at this website:

  5. Jumped here from Design Sponge. I am a furniture painter/crafter in the SF Bay Area, live in a farming community and am obssessed with canning and preserving! Constantly searching for the bumper crop or overcrop of fruit, and it is never ending! Love your blog, thank you so much for sharing. Signed up for a subscription, can't wait to see what you put up next.

  6. Nina, tell your friend Dan I have his Quick Pickles book, and I'm still evangelizing for him and his book, _especially_ for this recipe. These pickles are FANTASTIC. I've made them many times, and they are the best pickles i've ever tasted. Kick-ass indeed.

    I was going to share the recipe with a friend, and on a whim did a search for "westport river barrel pickles" and found your blog.

  7. My husband Michael is a New Yorker, a deli and pickle chauvinist- Russ and Daughters his second home and haven. I'm from New England, a fan of enticing recipes, stories, and your blog. Rugosa Rose syrup and Balsamic Figs are quite appealing, but Michael is not fickle, he needs his pickles. What a maven.

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  9. My husband used to go there as a kid, right next to Katzes. I think your husband will like these and they are easy to make! Let me know if he approves.

  10. Wow!! Outrageous -- pickled Figs!! Keep it coming!! Love the visuals on your blog too!

  11. I haven't tried the pickles yet, but I do like your recipe for lemon curd- it goes way back. Just the other day I resurrected it for the last of the blueberries. It's nice to find old friends that have staying power.

  12. do you mean 4 1/2 pounds of cukes?

  13. Elka,

    My bad! Thank you for picking up my typo, now corrected. Pounds it is.

  14. Thanks! I'm sure most people were clever enough to figure it out. I made them last night and they smell so good. The cucumbers are already changing color. I cannot wait to eat them. I'm definitely going to order your husband's book.

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