When I was much younger, my greatest culinary ambition was to own a diner. Admittedly, this may have had something more to do with the fact that if my sister or I complained about our given meal, our mother would look at us calmly and say, “too bad, this isn’t a restaurant” than it was an actual career path.
Still, I think I was on to something.
The endless variety! Having someone else wash up the dishes! Knowing you could get a good meal at any hour of night!
In fact, I spent many late nights during my high school years under the fluorescent lights of Long Island’s 24-hour diners. What can I say? My friends and I were good kids and there simply wasn’t that much to do after a certain hour.
Gathered around formica tables, we’d talk conspiratorially about the exploits of the earlier part of the evening, our usual orders—for me, well done fries and a diet coke (healthy, I know)—laid out across the table in front of us. The best part of the meal was always the pickles that came for free.
A close friend of mine from those days and I have taken to planning nostalgic nights at a stand alone diner that’s right near his apartment in Brooklyn. Our meal is almost incidental. What matters is what comes first. We have it perfected; he gets all of the half sour pickles and I get my favorites, the sours—pucker inducing and almost yellow in color. By the time our meal arrives, we’re already sated.
These diners may be unique to Long Island and the New York area in general—I never had any luck finding something similar in the environs of suburban Boston during my college days—but, I’d like to believe that I was simply looking in the wrong places. It seems too much of a shame for the those of you in the rest of the country to be missing out on the experience.
At the very least, now you, too, can make your own pickles.
Adapted from Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook
The original recipe calls for 2 TBS of chopped dill. I omitted it, instead upping the amount of garlic used and adding in red pepper flakes, for heat. I also cut my cucumbers up before marinating, in order to more easily fit them in my marinating vessel (and to share once they’re done). And, lastly, the decision to use both black and yellow mustard seeds is purely aesthetic. If you only want to invest in one type, your end results won’t suffer.
As noted above, I prefer my pickles sour, so I typically marinate them for 4-6 days. If you like them on the half-sour side, then leave them marinating for 3 days at most.
2 pounds cucumbers
2 TBS white vinegar
1/4 cup kosher salt
4 cloves sliced garlic
1/2 TBS each, black and yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
4 cups of water
Large Jar of cover container for marinating
Scrub the cucumbers to remove any wax on the skin and chill in ice water for a least 30 minutes, and as long as over night. Cut your cucumbers into 1/2″ discs when you’re ready to marinate them.
In a nonreactive pot, bring 4 cups of water and the salt to a boil, letting the salt dissolve. Add in the vinegar and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. If you’re impatient, like me, put the brine in a freezer safe container and stick it in the freezer so that it chills faster.
Place the cucumber rounds into a large jar, adding in garlic slivers and all of your spices, until the container is packed. Spoon the water/vinegar/salt mixture on top of the cucumbers until well covered. Cover the jar with plastic wrap and seal it tightly.
Leave the jar to rest at room temperature for 3-6 days, depending on desired sourness.
Once the pickles are done, store them in the refrigerator. They’ll last about a week.