Have you ever wanted to eat a big heaping bowl of pickles for dinner, but stopped yourself because you had doubts if pickles alone could be considered an acceptable meal? Well, here’s a life hack for you: turn those pickles into salad, and all those doubts will go straight out the window.
This salad is made using my favorite of all the pickles in pickledom: the half-sour. Unlike the kosher dills and bread & butters that line your supermarket’s pickle aisle, half sours are not brined in vinegar; they’re brined in saltwater that’s been infused with herbs, spices, and garlic, and they’re typically found in your supermarket’s deli section, where they can stay refrigerated. Half-sours are ultra-crunchy, unbelievably delicious, and just about the most refreshing thing I can think of eating on a hot summer’s day.
Even though I’ve long resisted fermenting my own pickles because I lack patience, I’ve started making my own half-sours this summer to get my pickle budget under control. That’s why, in this recipe, I call for making your own half-sours, which will save you a good amount of money. If you have a more generous pickle budget than my own, feel free to buy them from the store.
I kept this recipe simple so as not to detract from the flavor of the pickles; a bit of vinegar-soaked onion adds a nice pop of acid, some shredded red cabbage adds peppery bite, and a small amount of buttermilk rounds it all out nicely. As with all salads, you should taste before you serve, because each of us has particular salad preferences that should be honored. Let this salad sit for a few minutes before taking a bite, then start adding more salt, pepper, vinegar, buttermilk, or anything else as you see fit.
- 4 English cucumbers
- 6 cups water
- 1/4 cup fine sea salt
- 1 head garlic, peeled
- 1 Tbsp. mustard seed
- 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
- 4 large bay leaves
- 4 large sprigs dill
- 1/4 small red cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
- 1 medium sweet or red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup full-fat buttermilk, or 1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 1/4 cup milk
- Salt & pepper, to taste
Wash the cucumbers, trim off the ends, split lengthwise, and cut into half-moons 1/2" thick.
In a large container, stir the water and sea salt together until the salt has mostly dissolved, then add the garlic, mustard seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves, and dill. Add all the cucumbers, then place a sheet of plastic wrap over the container and press down gently to keep them submerged. Pop on the lid, slide into the refrigerator, and let sit for at least two days. (Once pickled, they can hang out in your fridge for months.)
To make the salad: add the onion, apple cider vinegar, and a hefty pinch of salt to a large bowl; toss with your fingers to separate the onion slices, making sure they’re well coated in vinegar. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.
Add the cabbage and buttermilk to the bowl and toss well with the onions. Remove the pickled cucumbers from the brine and add to the bowl, discarding the garlic, dill, and spices. Toss gently until mixed, let sit for 5 minutes, then give it a taste and add salt/pepper as desired. This salad will improve as it sits, and can be kept refrigerated for up to a week.