Saturday, July 16, 2011

When Life Hands You Cucumbers, Make Pickles

Summer is in full swing and so is my garden.  The past few weeks have been full of broccoli, zucchini, green beans and finally...tomatoes and cucumbers.  I've been training my cucumber vines to grow up a trellis that was the former home of my spring sweet peas.  I don't recall the exact variety of cucumber I planted, but I do know they were in the Kirby family.  Before I had a garden, I would seek Kirby cukes out at the produce market.  Sadly, they were not always available.  I love their crisp crunch, their fresh flavor and their thin, edible skin.  Kirby cucumbers are pickle cucumbers.
When I planted my cukes, I had pickles in mind.  I've never made pickles before and when I got to thinking about actually making pickles, I came to the realization that I am very picky about pickles.  I like pickles from "The Pickle Guy" at the farmer's market.  I used to love pickles from a pickle barrel at good deli, but stopped buying them because the thought of other people fishing around in the pickle barrel sort of grosses me out.  I like pickles that are in the refrigerator section of the grocery store and generally avoid the sad looking pickles on the shelves.  It's early in the season so I'm not yet knee deep in cucumbers.  I wanted to experiment with small batch refrigerator pickles before the bumper crop starts happening.  After doing some research and experimentation I turned to a recipe that was posted by Marisa from Food In Jars.  It looked looked like a great starting point for this pickle novice.
The greener the pickle the better.  The ones with the white on the ends are beginning to bloat
and are not the best for making pickles.
How I love these pickles!  They are everything a dill pickle should be.  I feel like kicking myself for never having made pickles before.  This was absolutely the simplest recipe to make.  I think the key to a good pickle is to start off with good, fresh cucumber.  The other secret of success is to have a balanced brine.  I added some mustard seed to the brine since I noticed one of my favorite commercial brands listed mustard seed in its ingredients.  I'm also partial to a garlicky pickle, but be careful!  Garlic is a powerful thing when it sits in pickle brine.  I lightly smashed my garlic to give my pickles some extra punch...perfection!  

Small Batch Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Recipe slightly adapted from Food In Jars, Urban Preserving Refrigerator Dill Pickles
Yields 2 pints of pickles

  • 1 1/2 pounds of Kirby cucumbers - I used 6 cukes
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup spring or filtered water
  • 2 teaspoons of pickling salt or sea salt (do not use table salt)
  • 2 teaspoons dill seed
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed (or leave whole for less punch)
  • 1 shallot cut in half and thinly sliced, about 2 tablespoons (or use a small mild onion) 
Have 2 pint size jars with lids, clean and ready.  Since these are refrigerator pickles and have a limited shelf life - about a month- you do not have to sterilize the jars.  Running them through the dishwasher or washing them with hot, soapy water should do.

Heat vinegar, water and salt in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring just to a boil.

While vinegar mixture is heating, scrub your cucumbers.  Cut off both ends of the cucumbers and cut each cucumber into quarters (spears).  Ideally, they should be the same length. 

Add 1 teaspoon of dill seed, 1 teaspoon of mustard seed, and 2 smashed cloves of garlic to each jar.  Add the sliced shallot divided between the 2 jars. 

Pack the cucumber spears into the jars so they are a snug fit.

When the vinegar mixture reaches a boil, remove from heat and carefully pour mixture into the jars of pickles, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace in each jar.

Screw on lids, and pop them into the refrigerator and allow to cure for at least 24 hours...48 is even better!   Remember, these are not processed so the must go in the fridge, they are not shelf stable.

That's it!  Why didn't I do this sooner?  I may turn into a pickling fool this summer....I have some cauliflower that's calling my name.


  1. I ate my jar in one sitting. Oops! So I sliced up two cucumbers that I stole from your garden yesterday and popped them into the juice. We'll see how they fare in a day or two...

  2. Melissa- If that doesn't work let me know and I'll make another jar for you. Maybe a quart next time?