Refrigerator Pickles

I generally ferment pickles a gallon at a time in salty brine with lots of garlic. That’s just what we like in our house. But if you don’t want to commit to a big batch, or you’re new to pickles, refrigerator pickles are easy and quick. And you can just keep them in your fridge, without doing any fancy canning. Here are two recipes: one sour and one sweet. Jump in!

CLASSIC CHILLY DILLIES (makes 1 quart)

Ingredients:

5 medium cucumbers
1 Tablespoon pickling salt, sea salt, or kosher salt (but not iodized table salt)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 head dill or small bunch dill leaves
1 clove garlic (optional)
3 black peppercorns (optional)

Directions:

For the crunchiest pickles, select firm, dark-green pickling cucumbers that have not started to ripen to white or yellow. Cut them into spears or slices, as desired (left whole, they will take a long time to pickle in the fridge). To increase the crunchiness, you can sprinkle the cut cucumbers with a couple of tablespoons of salt, let them sit for 2 hours, and then rinse and drain before proceeding, but this step isn’t absolutely necessary. I rarely bother with it.

Prepare a quart jar with a lid by running it through the dishwasher or washing it in very hot soapy water and letting it air-dry. Any jar with a lid will do; the wider the opening, the easier.

Place the dill in the bottom of your jar, peel and crush the garlic clove (if using), and drop that in along with the peppercorns (if using), then put in the cut cucumber. Mix the salt, vinegar, and water in a separate container, stirring until the salt is dissolved, then pour it over the cucumbers, filling the jar right to the top. If you’re in a hurry to enjoy your dillies, heat the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil before pouring it over the cucumbers (just know that heating unpasteurized vinegar kills off the healthy probiotic bacteria that make pickles good for you). Pop on the lid and put the jar in the fridge. Easy, eh?

Variations: Try Dilly Snap Beans, Dilly Zucchini Strips, or a medley of whatever veggies you have on hand.

 

SHIVERY SWEETIES (1 quart)

Dill pickles are good, but if you like pickles sweet and tangy, these bread-and-butter pickles fit the bill.

Ingredients:

3 cups sliced cucumbers
1 cup sliced onions (or half onions and half green pepper)
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced (optional)
1 Tablespoon pickling salt, sea salt, or kosher salt (but not iodized table salt)
1 cup cider vinegar
1¾ cup white sugar or 7/8 cup honey, or stevia to taste
1 Tablespoon whole mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon celery seed
2 cloves, whole

Directions:

Prepare jar and veggies as for Chilly Dillies. Combine the remaining ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan, bring them to a boil, and simmer until the sugar or honey is dissolved. Put the veggies into the jar and pour the vinegar mixture over them, stirring to make sure all veggies come in contact with it. Cover and refrigerate.

Variation: Rousing Relish

If you remove the center seeds and pulp from cucumbers and dice them up with onion and a small red bell pepper, and substitute a pinch of ground cloves for the whole cloves in the Shivery Sweeties recipe you’ll get a tasty “pickle relish.” And you can make all sorts of relishes by dicing vegetables (just one type, or a mixture) to use in either of the basic recipes.

Recycle Your Pickle Juice!

Last, but not least: After you chase down the last (homemade or store-bought) pickle in the jar, STOP—don’t dump that juice! It’s all ready and waiting (and in a jar already, no less) for another batch of pickles. Just slice or chop up fresh veggies and drop them into the jar. The pickle juice should completely cover the veggies. If it doesn’t, take out some of the veggies or add a bit of vinegar, and shake. Screw on the lid and put it back in the fridge. Let the juice soak for a few days and then, enjoy! Continue to reload the jar as long as the pickles’ flavor continues to please you.

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