Even though the word “pickles” most often is used to refer to pickled cucumbers, this is a collective term. It applies to pickled, leavened or marinated vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, greens and even berries – just any fruits of the earth.
The initial purpose of pickling raw vegetables was the preservation of the food for a longer term. Different nations had their own ways of picking and leavening depending on the climate they lived in. People in regions with a warmer climate, such as Southern and South-Eastern Europe, Transcaucasia, Central Asia traditionally dried and marinated their foods using vinegar (made from soured wine), since during warm winters it was easiest and the surest way to preserve food. Vinegar was also very accessible and cheap. In colder regions of northern Europe and counties like Russia and Ukraine methods of preserving food for longer terms got developed very differently – salting, pickling, and leavening do not utilize any kinds of vinegar. It is a historical fact that in the 12th century Russia marinated cucumbers and leavened cabbage were very common.
The greens (dill, tarragon, basil, savory, coriander, celery, parsley, horseradish) used for cucumbers picking must have a specific taste so it would become absorbed by the vegetables. Garlic and horseradish root, besides their specific taste, possess bactericidal qualities. Red hot peppers, bay leaf and other spices are also added to make pickles hot and spicy if desired.
Leaves of oak, cherry, and blackberry give pickles crispiness and density because of special tanning substances they contain. If pickling is done in barrels made of soft types of wood, these leaves are a must-have ingredient.
From left to right:
- bunch of fresh dill and fennel
- black currant leaves
- cherry tree leaves
- horseradish leaves
Redolent of garlic and piquant with fresh leaves, salty dill pickles can be supple and succulent or crisp and crunchy.
- 7-8 small cucumbers
- 3-4 Tbsp. sea salt ( I used pink Himalayan salt)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 fresh horseradish leaves
- 3-4 black currant leaves
- 3-4 cherry tree leaves
- small bunch of fresh dill or fennel
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 quarts sparkling mineral water (I used San Pellegrino water)
Put the water, salt, and sugar in a large pan and bring to the boil. Cook it over medium-high heat until all the sugar and salt is dissolved. Let the mixture cool to room temperature for about 20-30 minutes.
Wash cucumbers carefully. Put garlic, half of the herbs and leaves on the bottom of the jar or a small barrel, then put cucumbers, pour salted water over, cover with the rest of the leaves and herbs. Put in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. When ready slice them and serve as an appetizer.