There's really only one logical thing to do when the cucumbers suddenly start ripening 50 pounds of fruit a day... Start making pickles!
I dedicate a lot of time and energy over the course of the summer to putting up food for winter, which feels crazy when it's 11:30 pm on a Sunday in August and there are four different vats of simmering brines on the stove and juicy rotten tomatoes all over the dining room, but the curries and shakshukas and hot sauces that we feast on in the winter are reminder enough that it's worth it. All that mayhem is still to come this season though, so we fully enjoyed our first, relatively small, pickling adventure last night. We made 9 quarts of spicy pickles - and a pretty insubstantial mess, all things considered.
Having tried quite a few pickle recipes, I can confidentially say that this is one of my favorites. It's sweet but not too sweet, spicy but not too spicy, and very flavorful. And, like most good classic recipes, I stole it from my mother. These pickles get crispy and delicious after a few days in the fridge, and stay good for at least three months.
Makes about 1 quart
1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dill seed
4 to 5 small pickling cucumbers, peeled in stripes and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
1. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, black pepper, cloves, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and dill seed in a quart jar. Place the lid on the jar and shake until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Layer the cucumbers and onion in the jar using a wooden spoon to press them tightly into the jar. Place the lid on the jar, shake it well, and refrigerate.