Thursday, September 5, 2013

Refrigerator Pickles

This is a super easy way to make pickles, no canning equipment needed.  This was my first foray into canning something all by myself.  The success gave me enough confidence to move forward and try out my shiny new water bath canner (next recipe!) so I count it as the beginning.  I was inspired by The Hip Girl's Guide To Homemaking and went from there.  This lets you enjoy yummy pickle-ness without added dyes that seem to be in everything. Take advantage of all the sales at the farmers markets on cucumbers and enjoy homemade pickles in the fridge for several months!

Pickling cucumbers being sliced

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.  I used an old pickle jar and  jelly jar.  You can also do just a couple of cucumbers at a time so it doesn't have to be a day-long thing.  I made mine on a weeknight and still got to bed on time. 

Cucumbers ready to go into jars
Pickling cucumbers are in season and readily available at many farmers markets right now, 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. 

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 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's terrible.  I also added a garlic clove to each jar for some extra pizzazz.  (I totally want to play that word in Words With Friends now)

Local source for pickling spices: Pars Market & Restaurant in Holladay (do yourself a favor and try out their restaurant too, they have great middle-eastern food!)
Favorite local source for pickling cucumbers: Urban Farm & Feed / Wasatch Front Farmers Market

Jessica's Pickling Spices

Jessica's Pickling Spice Blend
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
2 Tbsp allspice
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp dill seeds
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf, crumbled

Mix all spices together, omitting any you don't want and adding anything else you think sounds good.

Refrigerator Pickles
Makes about 2 pints
Note: this recipe does not make shelf-safe pickles, they must be kept in the fridge!

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)
1-2 Tbsp pickling salt or kosher salt or sea salt (not table salt)

1. Start making the brine: boil salt, water, and vinegar
2. Get your jars hot - bring to a not-quite boil until you're ready for them.  Handle carefully!
3. Wash cucumbers, paying special attention to the flower end.  Cut cucumbers into whatever shape you want.
4. Pour pickling spices into glass jars (1/2 to 1 tsp per jar, whatever looks good)
5. Stuff cucumbers into glass jars, no closer to the top than 1/4"
6. 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. 
7.  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. 
8. Put lids onto jars *loosely*, so the gases can escape.  Write the date on the jar lid!  Sharpie markers work well for this. 
9. Put jars into fridge, in a place nobody will move them or knock them over.
10. Leave them alone!  Do not eat for at least 3 weeks!  (trust me they are not good yet!)
11. Put them on every sandwich you make because they are delicious.  

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