BESIDES THE OBVIOUS connection, pickles really are the perfect postmatch bite. They’re refreshing, go with pretty much everything, and are vegan , so almost anyone can enjoy them. Even the brine brings the fun, as an ingredient in cocktails or for sipping plain—it’s full of restorative electrolytes. The tastiest, healthiest pickles are the lacto-fermented variety, which get their tang from naturally occurring bacteria and are packed with probiotics. You can make your own with little more than cucumbers, water, salt, and time, using this recipe from Jeffrey Yoskowitz, cofounder and chief pickler at the Gefilteria, a Brooklyn-based Jewish food specialist.
CLASSIC SOUR DILLS
5 pounds whole unpeeled Kirby
cucumbers (smaller are better)
½ gallon ﬁltered water
½ cup kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves (dried or fresh)
1 dried whole chile pepper
1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon whole cloves
¼ bunch fresh dill, washed
(leave the stems on)
1½ heads garlic, cloves separated
1. If desired, ﬁll a large bowl or bucket with ice and water and place the cucumbers in it. Let sit for 45 minutes or up to 5 hours. This helps ﬁrm the cucumbers so they retain crunch during the fermentation process, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
2. Fill a large ceramic crock or glass jar (gallon-size is ideal) halfway with the ﬁltered water. Add the salt and stir until it has dissolved.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to the salted water, then add the cucumbers. Make sure the spices, herbs, and garlic are not simply floating on the surface.
4. Create a Seal: If fermenting in a crock, use a plate or a wooden board to force the vegetables beneath the brine. If necessary, top with a clean glass growler or jar filled with water to ensure that the weight applies pressure on the vegetables, keeping them submerged. If fermenting in a jar, use a smaller jar filled with water to do the same. Cover with a towel to keep out dust and bugs.
5. Let the soon-to-be-pickles sit at room temperature for 3 to 7 days. The longer they sit and ferment the sourer they will become. At a stable room temperature, half sour pickles should take 2 to 3 days to ferment and full sour pickles should take 5 to 7 days (the amount of time may vary based on air temperature and even elevation). You’ll notice that the pickles will turn paler as they ferment.
6. Once the pickles reach the desired ﬂavor, remove any white yeast or mold (or moldy pickles) from the top of the vessel and discard them. Yeasts and molds are a natural part of the process and typically occur only on the surface, where oxygen meets the vegetables. Don’t worry. Pack your pickles into smaller glass jars, then cover completely with brine and place directly in the refrigerator. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
For even more recipes that explore fermentation in Jewish cuisine, check out The Gefilte Manifesto, written by Yoskowitz and Gefilteria cofounder Liz Alpern. You’ll get additional recipes for pickles—dilly beans, sauerkraut, pickled grapes—plus more creative inventions like fried sour pickles with garlic aioli.
LAUREN VOLO FOR THE GEFILTE MANIFESTO/FLATIRON BOOKS. RECIPES REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION OF THE AUTHORS