Friday, September 10, 2010

Refrigerator Pickles

     I don't remember a whole bunch about my Dad's father, but I remember watching buggs bunny on a particular Thanksgiving, Grandpa calling me a "wise guy", and a crystal platter arranged with baby pickles. I don't remember any of the other food, though it is probably because pickles were the only thing I ate.
     My grandfather liked a lot of things; fireworks, Laurel and Hardy, pickles, photographs, and radishes. I didn't understand the radishes-- though the amount of zip packed into something so white was intriguing-- I approved of the other four. The biggest mystery to me was why my grandmother always insisted on draining the pickle juice out of the jar as soon as she opened it, thereby leaving the pickles high and dry for subsequent servings. It just struck me as odd. But then again, this week Nathanael has been doing his evening research with a jar of my pickles and a fork on his desk. Maybe pickles just bring these things out in people.
     Since Nathanael and I left our garden we have been purchasing cucumbers, three for a dollar, at the farmer's market. It's a little ironic since just a few weeks ago we were swimming in them, and even though we were making cucumber sandwiches and sharing them here and there, I seriously needed to make pickles. This was more than fine with me since I could probably live on pickles...if they had a little more nutrition. But, I was in search of a recipe for refrigerator pickles so that I would neither have to spend weeks waiting for them to ferment to perfection, nor store them and create one more box of food to bring South. I had enough cucumbers that I was able to try some different ratios, discovering that I did not really like any of the refrigerator versions I came across online. Usually they had more sugar than vinegar, which I think is preposterous.
Pickles are about the vinegar, people.  (Unless you are making the fermented variety, in which case they are not.)
Therefore, I would like to share with you my very own, fine tuned pickle recipe. I am not going to claim that it is going to make the "best pickles you ever had", because Nathanael told me people have offered him homemade pickles in the past while telling him that very thing, and he couldn't have agreed less. I will tell you that Nathanael, Asher, and a number of others I have shared these with have thoroughly enjoyed them and gone on to finish large jars of them within hours. This recipe is pretty simple and can be modified for zucchini (which we tried), carrots, and even grapes (I hear), but if you have cucumbers start with those.

Refrigerator Pickles
Makes 1 Quart jar or 2 pint jars or a number
of odd small jars (which must be glass)
For liquid
1 1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs salt
For jar
3 Medium or 4-6 pickling cucumbers (pickling are better, but any work)
2 cloves of garlic, each sliced into two or three pieces, lengthwise
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp dill seed
2  (4 inch) branches of dill or  1 scant tsp dried dill weed
*If you don't have any of these spices the pickles are still worth making, they just will have a different flavor.

1. In a small pot, all of the ingredients for the liquid until the sugar and salt dissolve. Then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. (It will smell so delicious, but amazingly strong too.)

2. While the liquid is cooling, cut your cucumbers into rounds that are 4mm thick (the ones in the pictures were a little too thin and were not as crisp as we like). Place half of the spices and garlic in the bottom of the glass jar.

 Cram the cucumber slices in as tight as you can until the jar is half full, then sprinkle the remaining spices and garlic, and finish filling the jar. (The dill and dill seed we used was also from our garden.)

3. Pour the cooled vinegar mixture slowly over the slices and screw on the lid. Refrigerate and let the flavors meld for 2 days before devouring.

(This is really just a tip, because I usually try a slice or five before the two days arrive, but they really are best after two days.) Eat all of your pickles within two weeks, and use the pickle juice for another batch of cucumbers up to one time. After that too much salt is gone and they won't really pickle.
4. Be sure to wash out your pot to prevent corrosion, even if it is stainless steel. Really.

(Notice the remnants of us still unpacking in the background.)


  1. The pickles really are good. Excellent recipe. One suggestion to other readers: buy a big jug of vinegar. You are going to want to make more and more and more of these, so you might as well have a lot of vinegar on hand.

  2. Is there a benefit to "cramming" the cucumbers in the jar? I would think that if they were a bit more free-floating they would soak up more flavor? Just wondering. :) ~Dannah~


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