On the list of vegetables I hate in the US but love here, cucumbers rank somewhere in the top ten. From Dutch yellow to crystal apple and Jaune Dickfleischige, it's nearly impossible for me to make pickles- in fact, chopping cucumbers is sometimes expecting too much- because I eat more juicy slices than I set aside. Truncated with herbs, vinegar, and finishing salt, homemade pickles make up for the watered-down, disappointingly slim variety available in bulk. They are cool and crisp, spicy with just the right amount of acidity, fresh and package-free. I might add that the art of home pickling, once mastered, is an inexhaustible source of enjoyment. In Paris, you can buy produce that was picked that morning, cut it up, stick it in a jar with some vinegar, and have a tasty aperitif ready in a matter of hours.
Simply put 10 sliced cucumbers in 1/2 cup vinegar with three teaspoons salt, plus herbs and peppercorns to taste. Seal in a jar, shake, and place in the refrigerator. The pickles take five minutes prep time and an hour or two in the fridge, perfect when I'm worn out after a long day of pretending to speak French. I couldn't find dill (aneth) at the market, so I used a few sprigs of fennel instead; most recipes call for 5% strength vinegar, but French stores appear to carry only 8% acidity, resulting in crunchier pickles. Instead of messing with flavor profiles and aromatic spice blends, add a few peppercorns, pimentos, and sweet mini poivrons with Persian blue salt. Sometimes I use daikon radish, pears, kohlrabi, or turnips instead- try pickling watermelon and citrus rinds.
Delicious on good bread with goat cheese, refrigerator pickles require minimal effort and are literally impossible to mess up. Unless you're me- when I first made these, I covered the cucumbers in white vinegar. They were awful. To remedy an overly vinegary pickle, pour out 1/3 liquid and replace it with sugar (people say table sugar, but muscovado or turbinado works well). Mellow a few days and try again. Perfect!
I should have known better than to ignore the recipe- my sauerkraut / kimchi attempts fall squarely under the category "cautionary tales." Now these pickles turn out tasty and perfectly textured, every time. It's a gut-friendly way to dress dishes while preserving summer vegetables well into cooler months.