IF YOU’VE NEVER PRESERVED ANYTHING FROM YOUR GARDEN OR FARMER’S MARKET BEFORE, Refrigerator Pickles are a great place to start. For unlike heat-processed pickles, these crisp, garlicky, perfect-for-snacking treats take almost no effort to make. The only challenge for the chef is the 2-day waiting period, while the cucumbers bask in their aromatic brew:
Ingredients for about one quart
6 ‘Kirby’ or other pickling-type cucumbers
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch fresh dill
1 Tbs. pickling spice (McCormick’s is good)
1 quart water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
4 Tbs. kosher salt
A 2-quart stainless or enameled (not aluminum) pot; a one-quart glass “canning” jar with lid and ring (you can also use smaller glass jars); a wooden spoon
Washing the jar, lid, and ring — As with all preserving techniques, containers must be thoroughly clean. Thus, run the glass jar through the dishwasher. Meanwhile, sterilize lid and ring in a saucepot of boiling water for 5 minutes.
Preparing the cucumbers — You can preserve the cucumbers whole, or slice them into spears. For spears, quarter each cucumber lengthwise. Slice off tops and bottoms, too, if you wish.
Making the brine — In the large pot, bring water to a boil. Remove from heat, and add vinegar and salt. Briefly stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the salt. Allow this brine to cool to room temperature.
Filling the jar — Place a handful of dill in the bottom of the jar, and pack with cucumbers. Tuck in garlic cloves, add the tablespoon of pickling spice, and, if you wish, more fresh sprigs of dill. Then fill to within a quarter-inch of the top with the brine solution. Cover jar with its lid and ring.
Refrigerating – Set the pickles in your refrigerator, and do not touch them for at least 2 days, if not a week. During this time the cucumbers will transform themselves into pickles — crisp to the teeth, and richly infused with garlic and dill, and also the clove, tumeric, bay, and other flavors of the pickling spice.
Storage — Pickles will “keep” for up to two months in the refrigerator.
Now, my Refrigerator Pickles use only minimal ingredients. You might like a more sophisticated, customized blend. Consider adding to the jar a pinch of red pepper flakes…thin slices of onion…freshly-snipped chives…really, anything you can think of that will enhance your own pickle-pleasure.
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