Last Saturday, I taught a class about cucumber pickles. We made quick pickles, we made preserved pickles, and spent the afternoon filling a church social hall with the arresting scent of boiling vinegar. Everyone went home happy and with jars of pickles clutched in their hands. I went home exhausted (my standard state after a class) and with a 12 cup measuring cup filled with the leftover cucumbers.
When I got home, I made turkey sandwiches for Scott and me, and contemplated those cucumbers. I considered a batch of preserved pickles (the canning pot was already on the stove, so it wouldn’t have been too much of a hassle), or cooking up a salt brine for a round of kosher dills. Eventually though, my brain skipped ahead to the next afternoon. I was invited to a cookout at a friend’s house and needed something to bring. A bowl of quick pickles seemed like just the thing.
In my years of canning, one of the things I’ve learned is that while people appreciate it when you bring jars of preserved pickles and condiments, there’s really nothing that thrills a pickle-loving crowd more than when you show up holding a very large bowl filled with crunchy, slightly sweet, gently spicy, tangy pickles.
I was introduced to the idea of the very large bowl of pickles many years ago. I was the potluck host that time, and my friend Wendy brought a full-to-the-brim bowl of homemade pickles to the party. At the end of the evening, the bowl thoroughly emptied of every cucumber spear and their deliciousness was all anyone could talk about.
In addition to keeping the leftover brine that night (Wendy okay-ed it), I have long since adopted the practice of making and bringing massive batches of quick pickles to parties. I know how to spot a good idea when I see it.
On Saturday, the concept of a very large bowl of pickles also had the added benefit of using up some lingering ingredients. I had green onions, cilantro (both also leftover from the class) and a bundle of mint. None of it was going to weather more than a day or two more and so needed to be used.
Now, let it be said right now that if you’re not a fan of cilantro or you can’t stand mint, they can be omitted or swapped for some other tasty green herb. Because this is a quick pickle, nearly every component of the dish can be altered, traded or left out completely.
I pulled out a large bowl that happened to have a tight-fitting lid (to control the inevitable pickle brine slosh). Into the bottom, I heaped green onion segments, slivered garlic, chopped cilantro, torn mint leaves and a generous palmful of red chili flakes (had I had a fresh hot pepper, I would have used that instead).
I cut up 10 or 12 large Kirby cucumbers and crammed as many as I could on top of the green onions, mint, cilantro, garlic, and red chili flakes.
Then came the brine. I used 2 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 cups water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and a generous pinch of salt. I will also confess that instead of preparing the brine on the stovetop, I combined all the ingredients in the measuring cup you see there and microwaved it until the sugar was dissolved (since it wasn’t being preserved, there was no real reason to bring it to a full boil).
Once the brine was in (magically, I had the exact right amount), I jiggled the bowl a little and squeezed in a few more cucumber slices. Then, the lid went on and the bowl went into the fridge for an overnight rest. Just to give you an idea of the time commitment these pickles require, once I had all the ingredients in place, it took less than ten minutes from start to finish (and that included pauses to take these photos).
On Sunday afternoon, I wrapped the bowl in a towel (just in case of leakage) and toted them out to West Philly for the party. Happily, the pickles were very well-received. More than once, I heard people commenting on their crunchy, sweet, spicy, pucker. Later that evening, I also got a quick follow-up text from the host that simply said, “Your pickles were amazing!”
The very large bowl of pickles wins again!
A Very Large Bowl of Pickles for a Potluck
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 bunch green onions cut into 2-3 inch segments
- 3-4 cloves garlic slivered
- 1/4 cup cilantro roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup mint leaves torn
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 10-12 Kirby cucumbers sliced
- Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a measuring cup and microwave until the sugar and salt dissolves (2-3 minutes).
- Arrange the green onions, garlic, cilantro, mint, and red chili flakes in the bottom of a large bowl or container.
- Layer the cucumber slices on top of the onions, garlic, and herbs.
- Pour the brine over the cucumbers until they're fully submerged.
- Cover the bowl and let the cucumbers rest in the refrigerator overnight.
- These pickles will keep for several weeks in the fridge.