Special equipment: Four 1-quart canning jars with lids, sterilized
Cover the cucumbers with cold water, scrub off their prickly spines and drop them into a colander.
Combine 13 cups water with the pickling salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve the salt.
Into the bottom of each sterilized 1-quart jar, drop a layer of cabbage leaves, 1 garlic clove, 1 small grape leaf, 2 red chiles if using 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, red chile and another tuft of crown dill. Pour hot brine into each jar, leaving 1/8-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims with a cloth dipped in boiling water. Screw the sterilized lids on tight, as tight as you possibly can.
Once they cool, transfer the jars to a warm place (75 degrees F or so) and let the pickles ferment for 1 week. This is the warm jump-start period for the longer ferment; the brine should get cloudy and the lid tops should become tight with pressure. Then transfer the jars to a cooler place (a root cellar would be great, but any place a few degrees cooler than room temperature is fine) and wait at least 6 weeks and up to 6 months before consuming.
Recipe courtesy of Amy Thielen, reprinted from The New Midwestern Table. Copyright 2013 by Amy Thielen. Photographs 2013 by Jennifer May. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC.