An easy family recipe of Russian Dill Pickles (солёные огурцы) with herbs, garlic and peppercorns. A healthy, crunchy and refreshing appetizer you will love!
Dill pickles are probably the most popular Russian pickles, usually being present at every celebration table as a part of zakuski (hors d’oeuvres) together with pickled tomatoes and homemade sauerkraut. Canning vegetables in summer has historical reasons but nowadays when you can buy anything in shops it’s still something people do because there is nothing like flavorful and crunchy homemade pickles!
I’ve been missing the taste of Russian dill pickles here in Germany, so I made them myself. It was very easy and didn’t require any skills you don’t already have.
Now the real cucumbers are finally in season here, so I buy lots of them because unfortunately it’s not long until the season is gone. By “real” I mean short bumpy and mat picklers that taste great both picked and fresh. I’m not a fan of “regular” big, thick-skinned and watery cucumbers.
As for the health side of Russian dill pickles, they facilitate the digestion thanks to lactic acid, that is formed during the brining (which is especially important during holidays – that’s why they are always served at celebrations) and activate the body’s metabolic processes. Together with pickled tomatoes, dill pickles are a traditional accompaniment to cold vodka, while the salty pickling liquid is known as the best hangover cure 🙂
How to make Russian dill pickles
To start with, you need the right type of cucumbers. Ideally, your cucumbers should be short (up to 10 cm or 4 inches long), bumpy, thin-skinned, mat and firm. You probably won’t find this kind of cucumbers outside of the season (which is July – August for Europe and North America) or if you will, they will be expensive. So, the best time for making Russian dill pickles is now.
The next important ingredient is dill. You will need the whole plant, including umbrellas. I grow my ow dill on the balcony (which works great for me) but I’ve seen it also in Russian and Turkish shops and markets here in Germany. If you have no idea where to get it in your location, the first place to head to would be a farmer’s market.
The rest of the ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry or kitchen. They include salt, your favorite herbs (I used thyme), garlic, bay leaves, chili pepper, allspice and black pepper. Traditionally, Russian dill pickles are made with horseradish leaves, which are quite hard to find, so I didn’t use them and it had no considerable effect on the taste. In case you are able to find them, I suggest you to use them.
If you want your pickles to be stored longer, sterilize your jars before pickling. I usually boil them (together with lids) for at least 15 minutes and then let them dry.
The whole process of pickling is really easy. First, you have to wash your cucumbers thoroughly and cut the ends. This way they will soak the brine easier, so your pickles will be ready sooner. Next step is to prepare the brine by boiling water with coarse sea salt. While you are bringing your brine to a boil, roughly chop the herbs, finely chop the chili pepper (you will only need a few slices) and slice the garlic. Transfer the cucumbers into a fitting sterilized jar, placing herbs, chili and garlic slices, bay leaves, allspice and black pepper in between the cucumbers. When the brine is boiling, pour it into the jar and close the lid. Turn the jar upside down and let it cool slowly (I usually put it on the couch and cover with a blanket). Once it’s cooled, let it rest for about 4 days in a cool place. The dill pickles should be ready by then. You will see when they are ready when they change the color (see the pictures). Store an opened jar in the fridge for about two weeks.
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Here is the full recipe I used for my Russian dill pickles. Feel free to double or triple the ingredients if you want to pickle bigger amounts.
How do you pickle your cucumbers? Tell me about your experience in the comments below.