Special equipment: Four 1-quart canning jars Canning rack or kitchen towel Large stockpot Jar lifter or tongs Funnel (optional)
Grape leaves keep the pickles crisp. Ask for them at a farmers' market, or as an alternative, add 1/2 teaspoon alum powder to each jar before filling.
Sterilize the jars: Wash the jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water and rinse well. Place a canning rack or folded kitchen towel in the bottom of a stockpot and fill halfway with water. Add the jars, making sure they are submerged. Bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes. Remove with a jar lifter or tongs and place on a clean towel. Put the lids and bands in a saucepan of simmering water until ready to use.
Make the brine: Combine 13 cups water with the pickling salt in a large pot and bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve the salt. Set aside.
Fill the jars: In the bottom of each sterilized jar, add a layer of cabbage leaves, 1 garlic clove, 1 grape leaf, 2 chiles and a tuft of crown dill. Pack the jar with cucumbers, standing them upright and getting in as many as you can. Top each jar with another garlic clove, grape leaf, chile and tuft of crown dill.
Add the brine: Ladle the hot brine into each jar (use a funnel if you have one), leaving 1/8 inch headspace. You may not need all of the brine.
Close the jars: Wipe the jar rims with a cloth dipped in boiling water. Screw the sterilized lids on tight-as tight as you possibly can.
Ferment the pickles: Once the jars cool, transfer them to a warm place (75 degrees For so) and let the pickles ferment 1 week. This is the warm jump-start period; the brine should get cloudy and the lid tops should become tight with pressure. Then transfer the jars to a cool, dark place and wait at least 6 weeks and up to6 months before eating.
Be careful opening the jars-fermentation causes the brine to carbonate and it may spray. And don't worry if the garlic changes color; it's still edible.
Photograph by The Ingalls
Be careful opening the jars. Fermentation causes the bringe to carbonate and it may spray. And don't worry if the garlic changes color; it's still edible.
Recipe courtesy of Amy Thielen for Food Network Magazine