A sliced disk of a pickle has its time and place (on a burger, for example), and a sharp spear on the side of your plate can give your lunch a delicatessen vibe, but pickle shapes do not need to be so smooth, so neat, so clean. In fact, there is a very good argument for abandoning the knife altogether: Smash your pickles, my friends. Smash them and be free.
Free from what exactly? Knives, for one, but also this idea that a pickle has to look a certain way. Like the cucumbers in a smashed cuke salad, smashed cucumber pickles absorb flavour better than their cleanly sliced counterparts.
Smashing damages the cellular walls of the cucumber much more violently than chopping or slicing, and cell damage is what lets the cuke absorb flavour. (It’s also why giving your pickles a quick massage helps speed up the pickling process.) Plus, it’s just fun. Taking a blunt object to a firm but juicy fruit is satisfying in a way that knife work is not. You can even get the kids involved — just make sure to put the cucumber in a sealable freezer bag before handing over the smashing.
I don’t have a strict “recipe” for smashed pickles, because it works with any brine. (The Spruce Eats has a recipe, if you’re into that kind of thing, but I’ve been using this brine for everything.) Just grab some pickling cucumbers, place them in a sealable bag of some kind, then smash with a small skillet, mallet, or heavy ladle. Pack the the bits and pieces into a jar, along with any garlic, spices, or aromatics, and cover it all with hot brine. Let the brine cool to room temperature, then chill the pickles.
Smashing not only gets the cukes ready to accept the flavour of the brine, it releases more of the juice from the cucumber into the brine, resulting in a juicier, more cucumber-y brine. I smashed a single cucumber from my garden and covered it in my pickled corn brine, and that thing was absolutely infused with flavour. (Lesser beings might deem these pickles too flavorful, in fact, but I love an extra aggressive pickle.)
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