Cucumbers brined in vinegar solution and shot through with pepper and spice make spirited -- and addictive -- snacks.
For the pickling spice, blend 3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, 3 tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds, 4 teaspoons of allspice and 1 cinnamon stick, crumbled. Makes 1/2 cup.
On the first day:
Trim blossom ends from cucumbersand cut lengthwise intoquarters or halves. Put in a bowl;add salt (A). Cover with coolwater and mix to dissolve salt (B). Place a small plate inside bowl on top of cucumbers to keep them submerged. Let stand at cool room temperature or in refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours.
On the second day:
Prepare jars as described in
General Rules. Drain cucumbers,rinse, and drain again. Bringvinegar, water, and 1 teaspoon Koshersalt to a boil.
Lift jars out of hot water one at a time, draining water. Fill with cucumbers (C). (It helps to lay jar on side and fill edges first, then center -- this keeps cucumbers from falling over.) If desired, add 2 cloves garlic and 2 or 3 sprigs dill to each jar. Sprinkle 2 teaspoon pickling spice into quart jars. (If you're going to store pickles for longer than a month, rather than adding spices directly, put them in a cheesecloth bag and simmer in pickling liquid for 5 minutes. Remove before filling jars.) Fill with boiling pickling liquid. Leave 1/2-inch headspace.
Slide a nonmetallic spatulaor chopstick between cucumbersand jar; release air bubblesby pressing gingerly on cucumbers.Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Wipe rim and threads of jarwith a clean, damp cloth. Removelid from hot water and place onjar. Screw band down, just untilresistance is met. As each jar isfilled, set it onto rack in boiling-watercanner. Keep canner waterat a simmer.
After all jars are filled andplaced on rack, bring water to aboil. Lower rack into canner.Water level must cover caps onjars by 1 to 2 inches. If needed,add more boiling water.
Put lid on canner. As soon asjars are lowered, start countingtime. Return to a boil. Processquarts 15 minutes at a gentlebut steady boil.
Remove jars from canner and set them upright on a dry towel or rack to cool. Do not retighten bands. Let jars cool for 12 hours minimum, 24 hours maximum. After jars have cooled, check lids for a good vacuum seal by pressing on center of each. If center is pulled down and does not flex, remove band and gently try to lift lid off with your fingertips. If lid does not flex and you cannot lift it off, seal is set. Wipe lid and jar surface with a damp cloth to remove food particles and residue. Label. Store jars in a cool, dry, dark place. Pickles will continue to absorb brine over time, deepening the intensity of both flavor and color (D).