Canning & Putting By / Cooking / Fermenting / Summer Recipes

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

When it comes to store-bought pickles, I feel neutral.  I use them on hamburgers, but I’m not a huge fan of just munching them straight out of the jar (there are people who do that, you know).  A couple of years ago I began making refrigerator pickles out of necessity… so many cukes, so little time! I will tell you, a fresh refrigerator pickle is nothing like the salty, mushy store-bought variety. Refrigerator pickles are crisp, fresh, tangy, and just a little salty.  Also, these pickles require a few simple ingredients that you probably already have on hand. You can pick up a quart of small cucumbers at your local farmers market if you don’t grow them yourself. In addition, you can store them in any glass container-  you don’t have to use canning jars.

Digression: Personally, I feel that making things from scratch is only necessary when the homemade version is cheaper, more nutritious, and/or more delicious. I once made a pumpkin pie from scratch. I mean, from scratch. I started with a pie pumpkin and some flour. I did it all: cooked the pumpkin, scooped out the flesh, made the crust from hand, everything.  When it came out of the oven I prepared myself for the greatest pumpkin pie experience of a lifetime…well, it tasted like pumpkin pie…  Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but it didn’t taste any more magical than one made with canned pumpkin and it had taken me all day!  And so, now that I have two small children, I am occasionally forced to limit my from-scratch excursions into areas where it is to my advantage to do so! Refrigerator pickles fall into the “worth it” category.

Okay, back to pickles. Back when I believed I could convert my husband into a veggie lover (so far I’ve only achieved veggie eater, not veggie lover), I planted a huge garden with complete disregard as to what he would actually eat.  Then I ended up with more produce than two adults needed (or wanted, in my husband’s case).  It was then that I discovered pickling because the hubs draws the line at cukes. He just plain hates them. He likes pickles, however.

When you can pickles the “real” way (using a hot water bath), you can’t eat them right away and it can be a bit of a gamble as to whether they turned out or not. You wait 3 weeks, crack the jar and then say, “oh, last year’s were better.” Also, you need to follow a recipe pretty rigidly so that the acidity is just right and they don’t go bad. This can be tough if you only have a few cucumbers on hand. Refrigerator pickles, however, are quick and easy and you don’t need any canning supplies to make them! The recipe is also more flexible with cucumber quantity.  In the past I’ve used a recipe that I pieced together that uses canning salt, but this year I tried a new one that uses only ingredients you most likely have on hand.

Also, somewhere along the way we discovered that my husband’s boss loves pickles. He’s the kind that will sit and eat an entire jar (I told you there were people like this). So one year I gave him a small jar and I received such rave reviews that I decided refrigerator pickles were the way to go!  His wife told me he ate the jar in about 15 minutes and, from a man who considers himself a bit of a pickle-connoisseur, I take that as a compliment!

The downside to refrigerator pickles is that they only last about a month and they take up space in the fridge, so I often make 8-10 jars of the refrigerator kind and 8-10 jars of the traditional variety (so that we have pickles to last us until next summer).

Below is a recipe for a small batch. This is great if you just have a 8-10 cucumbers from the garden and you need to get them into some jars before they go bad. If you are doing a large batch, you’ll have to triple or quadruple the recipe. I’ve done that with much success. So here’s the basic recipe:

Small Batch Refrigerator Pickles

makes two pints  (I made 3 pints and 2 quarts out of 3.5 pounds of cucumbers. I tripled the water/vinegar/salt solution)
Ingredients
1 quart small cucumbers (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup filtered water
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons dill seed (I used dill weed)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 spring onions (whites only), chopped (you could chop up yellow or red onion instead)

Directions:
1. Wash and dry cucumbers. Chop ends off and slice into spears. Set aside.
2. Combine vinegar, water and salt in sauce pan and bring to a boil. (Note to self: to not inhale over boiling vinegar… it hurts).
3. Equally divide the dill seed, garlic cloves and chopped onion between the two jars.

 4. Pack the cucumber spears into the jars as tightly as you can without crushing them – really smush ’em in there! I hold the jar on its side when I pack them:

 5. Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Put lids on the jars and let them cool on the counter top. Once they’re cool, put them in the refrigerator. Let cure for at least a day before eating. Pickles will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Some pickling notes…

– Because I’m a pickle rebel, I made some cut into chips instead of spears, you are allowed to do this.

– I packed some into larger jars, this is also allowed, you’ll just need to add a little more onion, garlic, and dill.

– You can play around with the spices: add a little cumin or pepper maybe? Or throw in a few fresh peppers? (hot or sweet, whatever floats your boat)

– If you use actual jars and canning lids, you’ll hear the seals pop as they cool.  Don’t be fooled, the USDA says this is not a legit seal and they still have to be refrigerated.

– You don’t have to use canning jars. I like glass for many reasons, but you could use any container with a tight seal – as long as you can back the cukes tightly.

– I’ve used fresh dill instead of dried in the past. Works just as well, but I didn’t grow any this year so I just used store-bought. Sometimes I use dried and just throw a sprig of fresh in for looks (a great idea if you are going to gift said pickles).- Write the date on the lid, this way you won’t find some in the back of your fridge and wonder how long they’ve been lingering there. If they spoil, you’ll know because they’ll be super mushy…. a gross way to discover this is to pop one into your mouth and THEN discover you’ve exceed the month timeline… I mean… hypothetically speaking…

Happy pickling!!

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