Minh Phan’s bread-and-butter pickles are a great way to add acid and crunch to rice bowls or your favorite sandwiches. They also make a great snack.
You will notice that we used a “cold” or room-temperature brine. This helps the pickles stay crisp. The salting and icing process at the beginning helps season the cucumbers while drawing out water (so they can absorb the brine better later on). The crinkle-cut gives the pickles a classic look; myth has it that adding nooks and crannies helps increase surface area to absorb more flavor. We think they’re easier to handle with chopsticks.
Wash the cucumbers well, then trim off the ends and discard. Think about how you want to use the pickles to determine the cut. For hamburgers, slice into thin rounds. A specialty crinkle-cut knife is really fun because it creates extra nooks and crannies to soak up the pickling flavors. For banh mi or hoagie sandwiches, cut into long wedges or batons. For grain bowls or salads or as a side to barbecued meats, think of the shapes and sizes of other items and cut shapes to complement them. I prefer a roll cut, where I cut off a chunk at an angle, then rotate the cucumber a quarter turn and cut at an angle again. Toss the cut cucumbers with the salt in a large bowl. Cover with ice and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to a day.
When you’re ready to make the brine, bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar, ginger, garlic, turmeric, celery seeds, coriander seeds and mustard seeds. The hot water will help the aromatics bloom. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat. Add the vinegars and soy sauce and stir to help cool the brine. Let the brine cool to room temperature.
Take the cucumbers out of the refrigerator and give them a nice toss in the cool water that was once ice cubes. Rinse the cucumbers well under fresh running cold water. Drain well, then pack the cucumbers into two sterile pint jars or one sterile quart jar to fill halfway. Divide the aromatics in the brine between the jars, then pack in the remaining cucumbers. You should have ½ inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Carefully pour the brine into the jars to cover the solids. Twist on the lids and give the jars a shake.
Refrigerate the pickles overnight. Shake again. The pickles are ready when the solids sink rather than float. If they’re ready, open the jars and give them a taste. The flavor gets better as they sit in the refrigerator. Remember to always use a clean fork or chopsticks to remove the pickles so you don’t contaminate the whole batch.
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