At this point in your summer, you likely have cucumber, zucchini, and summer squash coming out your ears. If you're sick of zucchini bread and cucumber salads, think refrigerator pickles!
They're ridiculously easy to make and will last a few months in your fridge, without the hassle of dragging out all your canning equipment. You're basically just adding vegetables—or watermelon rinds, green beans, carrots or anything else your pickling heart desires—to a mixture of vinegar and salt; just about any vegetable can be turned into a refrigerator pickle, so don't limit yourself to pickling cucumbers only. Homemade pickles are healthy, too, if you use an organic, unpasteurized cider vinegar, such as Bragg's, that's full of immune-boosting probiotics. (Apple cider vinegar is also the basis for my favorite Homemade Energy Drinks.)
The following two basic recipes are delicious in their own right, but they are also a starting place for limitless variations using different veggies and seasonings. Add more garlic, add spicy red pepper for hot pickles, or substitute other herbs for the dill. Just take advantage of whatever ingredients you have in your garden or find at your local farmer's market.
Classic Chilly Dillies (1 quart)
5 medium cucumbers
1 Tablespoon pickling salt, sea salt, or kosher salt (but not iodized table salt)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 head dill or small bunch dill leaves
1 clove garlic (optional)
3 black peppercorns (optional)
For the crunchiest pickles, select firm, dark-green pickling cucumbers that have not started to ripen to white or yellow. Cut them into spears or slices, as desired (left whole, they will take a long time to pickle in the fridge). To increase the crunchiness, you can sprinkle the cut cucumbers with a couple of tablespoons of salt, let them sit for 2 hours, and then rinse and drain before proceeding, but this step isn't absolutely necessary. I rarely bother with it.
Prepare a quart jar with a lid by running it through the dishwasher or washing it in very hot soapy water and letting it air-dry. Any jar with a lid will do; the wider the opening, the easier.
Place the dill in the bottom of your jar, peel and crush the garlic clove (if using), and drop that in along with the peppercorns (if using), then put in the cut cucumber. Mix the salt, vinegar, and water in a separate container, stirring until the salt is dissolved, then pour it over the cucumbers, filling the jar right to the top. If you're in a hurry to enjoy your dillies, heat the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil before pouring it over the cucumbers (just know that heating unpasteurized vinegar kills off the healthy probiotic bacteria that make pickles good for you). Pop on the lid and put the jar in the fridge. Easy, eh?
Variations: Try Dilly Snap Beans, Dilly Zucchini Strips, or a medley of whatever veggies you have on hand.
Published on: August 17, 2011
Updated on: July 10, 2013