We are in the midst of one hell of a heatwave in New England, and cooking- read: turning on any heating appliance- is so far off of my radar that I’ve been surviving on peanuts, dried tart cherries, cereal and delicious raw milk (from one of my camp instructors whose family owns a dairy farm), and curried raw cabbage wraps with scallion for the past few days. Kidding. Sort of.
In addition to hot meal cooking, summer harvest preserving has also taken a backseat, not so much due to the heat but rather my totally-awesome albeit exhausting day-to-day activities- working full-time at the farm during the week, taking care of the Learning Garden at Waltham Fields on the weekend, and working Saturday nights at the restaurant. Farmers market vendors’ displays keep reminding me it’s time to pick blueberries and raspberries to put up but I don’t anticipate doing any PYO in the near future given my current workload. And really, never mind PYO- I don’t foresee ANY canning in this household over the next few weeks as I would prefer to spend my nights recovering from 10-hour workdays by eating, relaxing, and spending time with my love rather than manning a humongous pot of boiling water for a few hours. Call me crazy or call me human. I’m sure I fall somewhere in between.
Luckily, the farm education programs I manage at Wright-Locke can occasionally satisfy my hunger to preserve the local fruits and vegetables of the season, even if not for my home larder. I’ll be hosting a few canning and fermenting workshops for the farm later this summer, and also intend to have my youth programs partake in some select preservation endeavors, including the overnight pickle recipe I’m about to share with you.
can be the pickiest of eaters, selecting healthy recipes for them to a) help prepare and then b) actually try out and hopefully c) actually enjoy and if we are ever-so-lucky d) share with their families and friends, can be a difficult task that is best carried out when considering the myriad factors determining whether the kids will want to eat something. 90+ degree weather? That means the snack should be cool or cold (duh). Mid-July seasonal produce all-stars? Cucumbers, dill, and the first of the season’s local garlic are all available. A classic summer food they’ll recognize and (hopefully) want to eat? The opportunity to teach kids about a different food prep method they’ve likely never learned about? Cucumber pickles seemed to fit the bill in many respects. So while we were sure to make refreshing fruit smoothies a few days this week, overnight dill pickles were also added to the itinerary. And MAN were they a hit!
For farm camp, we doubled the recipe to spread the pickle love a bit further and made some minor adjustments based on the ingredients we had on hand, including the addition of right-off-the-vine grape leaves to help keep the pickles nice and crisp; we also removed the blossom end of the cukes (the source of plant enzymes that tend to soften cucumber pickles) to ensure we’d have delicious, crunchy pickles.
Overnight Dill Pickles
Makes about one quart
- 1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar (we used light-amber maple syrup)
- 3 tsp pickling salt
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seed
- 1 tsp coriander seed
- 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
- 3/4 tsp dill seed OR 5-6 flower heads of fresh dill (we did flower heads)
- 3/4 cup fresh dill fronds, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced or crushed
- 2 cups hot water
- a handful of freshly-picked and rinsed grape leaves (optional)
- 2 lbs pickling cucumbers, blossom ends removed and sliced into 1/3″-thick rounds OR 3-4″-long spears
In a clean glass jar, ceramic crock, or non-reactive bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seed, coriander seed, black peppercorns, dill (all forms), garlic, and hot water; stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved and allow to cool to room temperature. Add the grape leaves, if using, and THEN the prepped cucumbers; seal your pickling vessel and transfer to the refrigerator for 24 – 48 hours, stirring once or twice. If using a large bowl, place a clean plate over the cucumbers to keep them submerged in the brine and then cover with plastic wrap (we did not do this as we used a giant Ball jar with a narrow opening and resealable lid).
Serve chilled and consume within one month.
Recipe adapted via Bobby Flay for Food & Wine.