Refrigerator dill pickles are fun and easy, no canning equipment needed. This lets you enjoy yummy pickle-ness without added dyes that seem to be in everything. Pickles were my introduction to canning something all by myself. The success gave me enough confidence to move forward and try out my shiny new water bath canner so I count it as the beginning; since then I’ve canned all sorts of new things! I was inspired by The Hip Girl’s Guide To Homemaking and went from there. Take advantage of all the sales at the farmers markets on cucumbers and enjoy homemade pickles in the fridge for several months. If you plan to participate in October Unprocessed Month, now is the time to get the pickles started.
You will need jars to put your pickles in. These don’t have to be new, don’t have to be special – whatever washed out glass jars with lids will work just fine. Regular jars work better than wide-mouth jars. The edges of the regular jars help to keep the cucumber slices from floating to the top, you can kind of cram them in there.
You can do just a few cucumbers at a time so it doesn’t have to be a day-long thing. I made my first batch on a weeknight and still got to bed on time. Pickling cucumbers are readily available at many farmers markets when they are in season, but they aren’t available year round. You can still make pickles! Regular cucumbers will work just fine; they have thicker skin so you may want to peel them. Feeling adventurous? No need to limit yourself to cucumbers, you can use green beans, carrot sticks, or all kinds of other veggies – mix and match! I was surprised to discover that I really like pickled carrots. You can even use cherry tomatoes if you poke them several times with a fork so the brine can get through the tomato skin.
There are many tricks to getting crunchy pickles. Veteran picklers have told me that some years they come out crunchy and some years they don’t, so if they don’t get crunchy on your first try blame it on the rain and make some more.
The first and most important thing is to choose the freshest cucumbers available, picked that morning if possible. The second is to scrub the heck out of the cucumbers and especially make sure there is no remnant of the flower, since the flowers have enzymes that destroy crunchiness. That isn’t exactly scientific but it’s the important bit.
Both with the easy pickles (this recipe!) and regular ones that get processed for shelf-safe canning, you can play with the spices all you want without affecting the food safety. Prepackaged blends can be purchased, but it’s pretty fun to make something up and you are only out a few cucumbers if it doesn’t come out well. I also add a garlic clove to each jar for some extra pizzazz. (I totally want to play that word in Words With Friends now). For some extra flavor, toast your whole spices in a frying pan on low just until fragrant.
Salt and Vinegar:
Use kosher salt, canning salt, or pickling salt – do not use regular table salt for canning.
Inexpensive vinegar works just fine for pickles, as long as the acidity is at least 5%. White vinegar has a nice mild flavor. The fancy flavored vinegars fade significantly during the pickling process so it is much better to get the flavors from spices.
Local source for pickling spices: Pars Market & Restaurant in Holladay
Favorite local source for pickling cucumbers: Urban Farm & Feed / Wasatch Front Farmers Market
Here is my recipe for Jessica’s Dill Pickling Spice Mix!
- 3-4 medium or large pickling cucumbers, as fresh as possible (fresh = crunchy)
- 1-2 tsp pickling spice blend
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity, this is important!)
- 1-2 Tbsp pickling salt or kosher salt or sea salt (not table salt)
- Start making the brine: boil salt, water, and vinegar
- Get your jars hot - bring to a not-quite boil until you're ready for them. Handle carefully!
- Wash cucumbers, paying special attention to scrubbing the flower end. Cut cucumbers into whatever shape you want.
- Pour pickling spices into glass jars (1/2 to 1 tsp per jar, whatever looks good)
- Stuff cucumbers into glass jars, no closer to the top than 1/4"
- Pour hot brine into glass jars, up to about 1/4" from the top - make sure cucumbers are covered, but it's okay if they float to the top.
- Run a thin plastic knife or spatula around the inside edge of the jar to let hidden air bubbles escape. This makes better pickles. Wipe the edge of the jar clean.
- Put lids onto jars loosely, so the gases can escape. Write the date on the jar lid! Sharpie markers work well for this.
- Put jars into fridge, in a place nobody will move them or knock them over.
- Leave them alone! Do not eat for at least 3 weeks! (trust me they are not good yet!)
- Put them on every sandwich you make because they are delicious.