Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle

Refrigerator Pickles

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The first batch of pickling cucumbers from my farmer's market. I was so excited to see them!

The first batch of pickling cucumbers from my farmer’s market. I was so excited to see them!

I’ve had this mild obsession with pickling for years, since long before I ever mixed vegetables with vinegar. Just like canning fruit, pickling sings of summer and independence to me. Imagine being able to pull out a jar in the winter, when all you can grow are greens, and having homegrown tomatoes or cucumbers. I had fantasies about all the pickles I would stock in my basement. Dinner guests would smile with delight at the crisp tangy vegetables I put before them.

I didn't have dill seeds, which the recipe called for, but I did have fresh dill. I'm curious to try it with the seeds to see how it alters the flavor.

I didn’t have dill seeds, which the recipe called for, but I did have fresh dill. I’m curious to try it with the seeds to see how it alters the flavor.

I never really pickled anything until a couple years ago. Why? Well, there is the usual reason of not wanting to try for fear of failing and ruining my fantasy. But also, I think I equated it with a level of homemaker-ness I couldn’t hope to achieve. Like crocheting doilies or something. I don’t think I understood how simple and satisfying it could actually be. Pickling veggies can take as little as a few minutes, and the bright flavor they add to salads and sandwiches is unbeatable.

I sliced the cucumbers so they'd easily fit in the jars. And to fill the jars easily without cukes going every which way, I lay the jars on their side.

I sliced the cucumbers so they’d easily fit in the jars. And to fill the jars easily without cukes going every which way, I lay the jars on their side.

The one pickle I long to master but haven’t had much success with is the most ubiquitous of all, the standard dill pickle. Maybe it’s because there are so many pickles out there, it’s hard to compare to the tastier, crunchier varieties I can buy in any grocery store. When done right, I know mine will blow any of those out of the water, but I haven’t hit on the right recipe just yet.

Fill the jar with cucumbers, but don't squish them in.

Fill the jar with cucumbers, but don’t smash them to make them fit.

It may also be because you have to wait days – days! – for them to finish. How can I know if the ratio of dill to garlic to salt is right when I have to wait days to see the results? And how do I fix it then if it isn’t right? I have only made refrigerator pickles for this reason – not much point in putting up pickles that you aren’t crazy about.

Put the dill and garlic in the jar, then the cucumbers, then add the vinegar solution. I also added a dried chipotle chile to the jar on the left.

Put the dill and garlic in the jar, then the cucumbers, then add the vinegar solution. I also added a dried chipotle chile to the jar on the left.

I’ve come close. Last summer I made this one multiple times. It’s quite good, but not insane. But to try something new, last week I made this one from Food in Jars. I altered the recipe a bit because I don’t have spring onions or dill seeds.  Also, I thought I’d add one of those dried chipotle chilies I got earlier this year for the pickled asparagus. I think the smoky flavor is a little strange with dill pickles, but D really likes it.

Let the jars cool on the counter. In other recipes, you leave them loosely covered and unrefrigerated for a day or two. This one went straight into the fridge after cooling to room temperature.

Let the jars cool on the counter. In other recipes, you leave them loosely covered and unrefrigerated for a day or two. This one went straight into the fridge after cooling to room temperature.

There wasn’t enough salt for me, and the pickles aren’t as crispy as I’d want. And because they go strait into the fridge rather than sitting on the shelf for a couple of days, they don’t have that strong fermented taste. Still, they were fun to make and fun to eat.

Finished pickles.

Finished pickles.

I feel like I’m circling the right answer, so I keep trying. There are so many recipes out there, and they’re all a little different. One day I’ll have pickles coming out my ears, and then maybe I’ll have enough to share with friends in January. But for now, I’ll keep experimenting.

One thought on “Refrigerator Pickles

  1. Love love love these pickle recipes. Going to try some out in my True refrigeration fridges at the restaurant this week. Thanks for sharing this. I’m sure everyone will be pleased with the results.

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