lemon cucumber pickles

last year these were one of our favorite pickles, leading us to plant a dozen of them in our community garden!  this is an old-style brined pickle with the addition of whey which lends a fizzy liveliness that makes the whole package pop.  lemon cucumbers pickled fresh and whole, are in every way tangy, flavorful and fun.  as with all our pickle recipes, good sea salt and grape or oak leaves are your keys to success, providing a slow brine and tannic acid for crispness, respectively.  here's a harvesting tip:  pick your lemon cukes when they are light green with just a hint of lemony yellow.  if you wait until they are bigger and quite yellow, the cucumbers will be less crisp and much more seedy, not fun for pickles.

10 -20 lemon cucumbers, fresh picked2 Tbl sea salt or real saltfresh dill flowers, leaves or seeds1 Tbl pickling spice7 cloves garlic, peeled1/4 cup whey5-7 grape leaves, palm-sized or bigger rinsedhalf-gallon mason jarBegin with a clean jar.  add three grape leaves, one on the bottom, two on the sides.  add half the pickling spice and all the peeled garlic.  gently add 3-5 cucumbers and a few sprigs of the fresh dill.  add more grape leaves, then cucumbers then dill and continue layering until you get to within 1 inch of the top of the jar (the final layer will be cucumbers).  at this point i will wedge and shove the cucumbers until they are packed tight enough to not float up once i add the water. add the whey and the rest of the pickling spice.  dissolve the salt in 3 cups of water and add to the cucumber jar, add just enough filtered water to cover the tops of the cucumbers leaving about 1/2" of head space.  screw the lid on tightly, shake just a bit to incorporate and release any bubbles then add more water if necessary to keep the cucumbers covered.  Let sit in a cool place for at least 5 days.  the slower (cool temp) the cucumbers brine, the longer the flavors take to develop and the crisper they stay.  we keep ours in the hallway, out of the sun.  test the flavor of your brine in a week, releasing trapped carbon dioxide from the jars if needed every few days (just unscrew the lid briefly and then screw back on).  if it is hot out the cukes will become pickles much faster.  once they are the flavor you are looking for, store either in cold-storage or the fridge until you've eaten them up.  some cookbooks will say they keep about 3 months.  we have found with good cold-storage and lots of grape leaves the pickles stay crisp and delicious for many many months.As with any fermented food, if it smells terrible, throw it out.