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How to infuse tiny cucumbers with big flavor

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

Tecolote Farm is swimming in cucumbers right now, and they are picking some of them early to sell as gherkins. (Or cornichons, if you prefer.)

The longtime East Austin farm has these babies for sale at their booth at the Sustainable Food Center’s markets downtown and at the Burger Center in Sunset Valley on Saturday mornings this month. They run $4 per pound for the bigger ones and $6 and change for the itty bitty ones. (And good news for local produce lovers: Starting later this year, Tecolote will be offering a “very rare” fall community-supported agriculture subscription. If you’re interested in signing up, send an email to tecolotefarm@gmail.com.)

But in order to get these cucumbers to the gherkin/cornichon state, you’ll have to pickle them using your pickling method of choice, and to be honest, I don’t really have a pickling method of choice.

I’ve made fridge or quick pickles in the past, but not enough times to feel strongly about a particular ratio of liquid to salt/sugar, but Tecolote co-owner Katie Kraemer says that her husband, David, likes an even more simple method that doesn’t require refrigeration.

He uses a cup of boiling water (and no vinegar) and a tablespoon of salt for each glass pint jar packed with cucumbers, adding garlic cloves, spices, sliced onions, sprigs of dill or even a bay leaf for additional seasoning. The next step in this old-fashioned method is allowing the pickles to sit on the counter, covered, for one to two days to let nature’s natural salt-based preservation take place.

This afternoon, I tried David’s method, but since I had quite a few cucumbers to put up, I also made a few jars using a more traditional water-vinegar-salt brine. I used an overview from Kate Payne, another pickle fanatic in town, who has this helpful fridge pickles 101 guide on her website. For a trio of big batch fridge pickle recipes, you can read a 2010 story I did about both quick pickles and jams by clicking here.

(Awwww, I just read the end, where I announced that I was having a baby at the end of the summer. That baby is now almost 4 years old now, and he could eat pickles all day long. How convenient.)

I’ll let you know how David Pitre’s old-fashioned method turns out after I try them over the weekend. In the other jars in the photo above, I used a vinegar-water brine and added two different spice mixtures, one with simply peppercorns and garlic and another with coriander, peppercorns, a bay leaf and juniper berries.

How do you like to make pickles? Does it matter if they are the tiny ones or do you like the big cucumber halves and quarters?