Last year I had the urge to make pickles, I did enough research to know I needed whole spices, not ground ones and trekked down to Sahadi's, a local store, to buy them. I could've gone for the premixed pickling spices but wanted to make my own signature blend. The star anise, in particular added a mildy pleasant licorice note.
I got home, fed the baby her lunch and down she went for a nap. Then it came time to actually read through all the cookbooks I had laid out on the counter. Well, every darn one called for soaking the pickles for a minimum of eight hours and some even overnight. All I had was about two hours—how long my little one would likely nap.
The main reason for the soak in cold water seems to be to crisp up the cukes. These were quite firm already, so I had a hunch I cold forgo that step. I did decide to sprinkle them with some kosher salt and let them sit as I prepped the other ingredients. I figured this would draw out some excess water and hopefully make the end product a bit more crunchy. In less than two hours—they time to cool, the pickles were ready to eat and the baby was well-rested. A good day for both of us.
Add cucumber and onion slices to a deep bowl. Sprinkle with salt and toss well. Let stand for 30 minutes. Rinse and set aside.
Meanwhile, add vinegar and sugar to a deep pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add spices along with the rinsed cucumber and onion slices. Return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook gently 5 more minutes. Do not overcook, or you'll end with limp pickles. Let cool. Will last a few weeks in airtight containers in the refrigerator or process in canning jars.
Jennifer Perillo is the Consulting Food Editor at Working Mother magazine, and a regular a contributor to Relish Magazine and FoodNetwork.com. She shares stories about food, family and life at her blog In Jennie's Kitchen and in her debut cookbook, Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie's Kitchen (Running Press 2013).