Finding the right crunch

By guest blogger Susan Sprague Yeske,

Jack Baker was a man with a mission.

A retiree who likes to cook, he wanted to create the perfect pickle: one that was fresh and flavorful with just the right bite of vinegar and hint of dill.

Most importantly, he wanted it to stay crunchy while sitting in its jar in the refrigerator. Soft pickles are unappealing, he said.

Over the course of seven cucumber seasons Baker would begin to work when the Kirby cukes arrived at the Trenton Farmers Market in Lawrence, N.J. He experimented with recipes from cookbook after cookbook, taking ideas from some and discarding others.

His seven-year odyssey ended, he said, when he achieved the perfect pickle, one that draws raves from friends and family. “When I go fishing, my buddies won’t let me get on the boat unless I bring my pickles,” he said.

“When I go fishing, my buddies won’t let me get on the boat unless I bring my pickles”

The truth is in the tasting: they really are the best dill pickles I have ever tasted. And the crunchiness lasts and lasts and lasts.

Jack generously shares his pickle recipe with anyone who wants it, along with other favorite recipes he has acquired through the years.

He also shares another hint from a fellow pickle maker: adding a single grape leave to a jar of freshly made pickles will help keep them crisp.

Here is Jack’s recipe:

Jack’s Refrigerator Pickles

INGREDIENTS & EQUIPMENT

8 one-quart canning jars with rings and lids
14 heads of dill, divided, or 1 tablespoon dill seed per quart
16 garlic cloves
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup granulated sugar
2 ¼ cups white vinegar
3 quarts water
Kirby cucumbers 4-5 inches long (approximately 12 to 15 pounds)

HOW TO

  1. Brine: Mix together salt, sugar, vinegar and water and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. While waiting for the brine to boil, sterilize canning jars and rings in boiling water for 12 minutes. Place canning lids in a bowl of warm water and let them sit until ready to use.
  3. Once the jars are sterile, pack with dill, garlic and cucumbers sliced according to size and preferred thickness. Cover with hot brine. Seal jar with lids and rings and wipe edges dry. When jars have cooled, place in the refrigerator.

Yields approximately 8 quarts.
Pickles must be refrigerated and will maintain their freshness for up to 10 weeks or more.

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