My father in law had a glut of homegrown cucumbers and so gave some to us to eat. However, we just don’t get through enough cucumbers to eat them before they are well past their best.
Luckily, cucumbers make a really great pickle which means we can now keep them for months!
A pickle works by creating an environment that is extremely hostile to pathogens. Vinegar, salt and sugar are all great at keeping bacteria at bay. So by adding food to a brine made with those ingredients in a tightly sealed jar you can greatly extend shelf life.
The only problem is that a pickle can take a while to get to work. The vinegar will take a relatively long time to kill all of the nasties in the jar and any flavours we add will take time to infuse.
With a sous-vide we can speed both of these processes up. By heating to 60 degrees Celsius we can sterilise our jars and we can help the flavours to mingle.
These pickles will last for six months on the shelf, but after opening you’ll need to transfer them to the refrigerator and eat more quickly.
I’ve used cucumbers in this recipe, but as long as you stick to the method for heating and for making the brine you can swap out the cucumber or any of the flavouring for your own preferences.
The vinegar that I buy comes in 375 millilitre bottles, so this recipe works with that as the baseline. However, you may need to scale up or down depending on how big your jars are and how much you want to pickle.
For the pickling liquid (brine):
- 375 millilitres white wine vinegar
- 375 millilitres water
- 80 grams granulated sugar
- 20 grams salt
For the cucumbers (these ingredients can all be swapped to make a pickle of your own design):
- Fresh dill
- Birds eye chillis
- Mustard seeds
- Cumin seeds
- Coriander seeds
- Whole peppercorns
You’ll need some mason jars to make this recipe. These are jars where the lid is made with an outer ring and an insert into the middle. This design allows air to escape during the cooking, without this you are risking that your glass may crack as the pressure builds up inside.
At the end of the process, you’ll find that the expanding and contracting of the air helps to tightly seal the lids, so it’s important that the air can escape.
- Firstly, check your jars for any damage and wash with warm soapy water. Damaged jars may crack or not seal correctly and any contamination may interfere with the pickle.
- Heat your sous vide to 60 degrees Celsius.
- Next add your aromatics (the dill, chilli and seeds) to each jar. Keep everything whole rather than grinding/chopping. You’ll only need around half a teaspoon of each seed, a single chilli and a few fronds of dill for each jar, but you can experiment with the amounts of each to your preference.
- Chop up your cucumber and add to the jars. You can chop into any shape you like but make sure the pieces are fairly chunky and that you don’t pack the jars too tightly. You want enough room for everything to move around in the jar and you’ll need to be able to submerge all of the ingredients in the brine while leaving some room under the lid.
- Next fill up the jars almost to the top with the brine leaving about 1 centimetre at the top of the jar. If anything pokes out above the liquid then remove it from the jar.
- Screw on the lids until they are “finger tight”. You should be able to unscrew the lid with your fingertips. Any tighter than this and air won’t be able to escape.
- Add to the sous vide and leave for 2.5 hours. This time works for jars up to 1 litre. If you’re using anything bigger you’ll want to leave it in for longer so that the contents can reach 60 degrees.
- Remove the jars from the sous vide and set aside at room temperature for a further 12 hours. You may find that the tops of your jars have ballooned under the air pressure. As they cool the lid will contract and completely seal the jar.
You can eat these straight away, but they’ll keep for six months on your shelf. Once opened keep in the refrigerator.