Every summer we are blessed with a bountiful harvest of cucumbers. While great on salad, as part of a vegetable tray, or to make a good Greek tzatziki sauce, sometimes the garden can produce cucumbers faster than we can eat them. Sure, giving them to friends and family is always nice, but what if you want to do a little more with your excess vegetables?
One great option is to make pickles. Pickles come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. You can make fermented pickles, canned pickles for long-term storage, or make fresh pickles that are ready to eat in a day. Today, I’m going to show you a simple recipe for quick and fresh refrigerator pickles. The beauty of this type of pickle is that no special equipment is needed, a few quarts can be made in minutes, and since they are ready so quickly they are a perfect option if you’ve been invited to a summer cookout or party and want something unique to bring and share. And let’s not forget the versatility of the pickle itself. Eat them as a snack, put pickle chips on your hamburgers and pulled pork sandwiches, dice them up for your potato salad, make your own relish, or use the fantastic brine in your next batch of deviled eggs. Once you make your own pickles you may never use store-bought again.
One thing to keep in mind with this type of pickle is that they are not designed for long-term pantry storage. Without going through the fermentation process or canning, they are not shelf-stable like the fluorescent green pickles you see on the supermarket shelf. Once made, these pickles should find a home in the refrigerator. Even though they may not last an eternity in your pantry, they will still keep for a few months in the refrigerator, but honestly, that’s rarely a problem because at my house at least, a quart of pickles will be gone in a week or two.
Don’t let the word pickle keep you constrained to cucumbers. Actually, this brine, or any similar water, vinegar, and salt concoction you come up with can be used to pickle many different vegetables. Some of my favorites are green beans, asparagus, and chilies. So feel free to experiment, and you don’t even have to do an entire batch to see if you’ll like the outcome. Make your traditional cucumber pickles, but throw in a few beans, some asparagus, or even carrots right in with the cucumbers and see how they turn out. But for starters today, here is the basic cucumber pickle recipe.
- 4-6 medium cucumbers, or 8-10 small cucumbers
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 8-12 large cloves of garlic
- 6 tablespoons of pickling/canning salt or non-iodized kosher salt
- A few sprigs of fresh dill, or substitute with 2 tablespoons of dill seed
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Optional: 2 Hungarian hot wax peppers
Start by bringing the water to a simmer in a saucepan. While the water is heating, peel the garlic. For a subtle garlic flavor, use 8 cloves (4 in each jar). Use more for a stronger garlic flavor. Leave the cloves whole. Once the water is up to a simmer you can add the garlic and cook for about five minutes. While the garlic is cooking, prepare your cucumbers by slicing into quarters lengthwise for spears, or cut thin chips. After the garlic has cooked for five minutes, add the vinegar and salt and bring to a boil until the salt is dissolved and then remove from the heat.
In two one-quart canning jars (wide-mouth jars work best for this) add the fresh sprigs of dill and remove the garlic from the pan and distribute equally in both jars. Then divide the remaining spices between the two jars. If you want a touch of heat, add one Hungarian hot pepper, halved lengthwise, to each jar. Next, take the cucumbers and pack them tightly into each jar. Bring the brine back up to a boil and pour immediately into both jars, filling very close to the very top so that the cucumbers are completely covered.
Let the jars cool for about 15-20 minutes before securing the lids and then place in the refrigerator. They will taste like pickles in a matter of hours, but you really begin to see them shine after a good overnight rest. At this point the pickles will last in the refrigerator for a couple of months, but I find they are at their best inside the first few weeks when they are incredibly crisp. Over time they do slowly begin to soften, but the flavor remains.
And that’s all there is to it. In under 30 minutes you’ll have cucumbers fresh from the garden on their way to becoming tangy, spicy, and crunchy fresh pickles that are better than anything you’ll find at the store.