When you go to a farmers market and you see all those beautiful cucumbers, you want to make pickles. It can’t just be me? But sadly, like so many other foods we grew up with, the grocery store brands leave something to be desired in terms of ingredients and healthiness.
This is maybe ten minutes worth of work plus some time to sit.
So good. So easy. So affordable. Perfect.
It’s worth a quick look at the top three grocery store pickles to understand why I’d rather make my own. Besides being cheaper, tasting better, and healthier, of course. You know me, read the labels.
We all start with the basics: Cucumbers, Water, Distilled Vinegar, and Salt / Sea Salt. I usually use plain organic white distilled vinegar but if you want to mix it up a bit then try a champagne or wine vinegar.
Then we all add flavors to the mix: Garlic Dried / Spices / Dried Red Bell Peppers and Natural Flavors. I’m going to guess somewhere in “spices” and “natural flavors” there might be some dill buried. Myself, I use fresh garlic, fresh dill, coriander seed, mustard seed, and celery seed. (Some folks like to add a bit of sugar too.)
Sometime I add some black peppercorns, now and then depending, but I prefer the end result better without them. At least after they’ve been in the refrigerator for more than a few days. If you like it, go ahead and add a teaspoon or so. Likewise crushed red pepper or, if you get the chance, some horseradish makes an amazing spicy pickle.
Next, the top three add preservatives, emulsifiers, and stabilizers: Calcium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, and Polysorbate 80. I eat mine quick enough (within a month or so) so that’s never necessary.
And finally, the top three artificially color them. I will never understand why the green of a natural cucumber isn’t enough for a pickle. For the record, they usually use Yellow #5 or Yellow #6. I just use good cucumbers.
I know what you’re saying, how many pickles is one person realistically going to eat and so does it really matter all that much in the long run? Well, that may be true enough, but I believe the aggregate of all the foods we give a pass to over the years is going to add up to something I’d personally rather avoid. I’m uncomfortable with words like, “it’s just a little bit of poison” and “it’s not the worst poison.” For me, poison is poison, and given a choice, I’ll vote with my fork and wallet.
And sure, you can buy organic pickles if you try. They’re usually a fair amount more expensive.
I figure two good-sized cucumbers or three smaller ones make a good quart container’s worth.
By the way, I absolutely love these containers that I get online. They’re BPA-free, quart-sized, dishwasher safe, microwave safe, sturdy not flimsy, and inexpensive enough I can give them away to people without a worry. Glass jars are pretty and all, but these stack in the cupboard, refrigerator, and freezer! (I also keep the pint-sized ones on-hand too.)
Anyway, my recipe here makes two quarts. Feel free to cut it in half or double it, no worries.
First off, cut the cucumbers, peel the garlic, remove the big stems from the dill. I also cut each garlic clove in half but don’t chop it up.
Don’t let anyone tell you that only one particular type of cucumber works. Nonsense! You might have to remove some seeds to get them how you like it. Some might have a firmer texture or a snappier peel, but it all works.
Shoot, you can pickle just about anything: carrot sticks, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, bell peppers, (red) onions, fennel, even apple slices. You name it!
The only thing to remember, and this is just my preference: if you wouldn’t normally eat it raw (like green beans or asparagus), then cook it just a bit by quickly blanching in hot water and then into an ice water bath. (The bath at the end will also help them stay green.)
I think I’ve got a picture from another cooking session here somewhere… yeah, see how good those look?
But that’s not today.
Once everything’s ready, put the water, vinegar, salt, and garlic in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt. Let it boil for maybe five minutes, just enough to help the garlic along. If you don’t cook out the sulfur in the garlic it turns a funny color in the vinegar later.
Put your spices in a container or jar.
Stuff in the cucumbers.
Using a slotted spoon, divide the garlic among the containers. Then carefully pour the pan liquid into the containers too. Let it cool down, seal them up, and refrigerate.
I’ve eaten these after just a couple of hours and they’re fine, just not very strong. After two or three days? Perfect.
Refrigerator pickles are so easy, healthy, and affordable. And good? Oh wow. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 4-6 cucumbers, enough to fill two 1-quart containers
- 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3 cups water
- 1-1/2 cups distilled vinegar
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
- 1 handful fresh dill, stems removed
- 2 teaspoons coriander seed
- 2 teaspoons mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns (optional)
Cut the cucumbers into spears (quartered lengthwise, maybe eighths if they're large). Peel and halve the garlic cloves. Remove the large stems from the fresh dill.
Bring the water, vinegar, salt, and garlic to a boil in a saucepan. Let boil for about five minutes, stirring to dissolve the salt.
Put the spices in the containers. Add the cucumbers.
Using a slotted spoon, divide the garlic between the containers.
Carefully fill each container with the water / vinegar / salt mixture.
Let cool, then seal and refrigerate.
These are edible within a few hours but at their best after a few days.
They should keep in the refrigerator for at least a month.
I hope you give them a try. If you have your own recipe, your own special mix of spices, I’d love to hear about it.