Easy Garlic Dill Pickles

refrigerator pickles

I’ve made two kinds of pickled cucumbers: canned in a water-bath canner and  pickles to store in the refrigerator. Here are a few reasons why I prefer the refrigerator pickle:

  • They stay crisp.
  • They stay crisp.
  • They stay crisp.

Well, you get my point, and it’s the main reason why I don’t water-bath can them anymore. But there are actually other reasons why you might want to do your pickles this way too:

  • They take less time. I can finish a quart in about 20 minutes.
  • If you’re growing the cucumbers, you can do 1 or 2 quarts at a time as the cukes ripen. This is especially good for small gardens that can only fit a few cucumber plants and would never have enough for a full canner load.
  • There’s no heating the house with a canner on the stove during the height of summer (it’s 104 in the shade at my house today!).
  • The recipe can be altered with seasonings and garlic without the risk of food poisoning that comes with playing around with recipes for water-bath canners.

Now here’s an important note: I know there are some out there that “can” their pickles this way all the time, just letting the heat from the vinegar mixture “seal” the jars (a process known as “open kettle” canning) before storing them on a shelf without any water-bath canning. I know that people have done this for many years in some cases and that “nothing has happened” in their experience.

However, the USDA says that this practice is not secure and that there is a danger of food poisoning as well as spoilage. Here’s a good article on the subject.

And my take on it is this: IF the rare occurrence did in fact happen with one of my home-canned foods, would it be worth it? What about if it might cause intestinal problems? My answer is NO- it’s only food and never worth sickness (or a life, heaven forbid) and I will never even take that chance, especially when it’s so easy to take the recommended precautions.

So, on to our refrigerated pickles!

You will need enough cucumbers to fill a quart jar. Today, I had enough from the garden to do 2 quart jars. They won’t be packed tight, but that’s fine since they will be stored in the fridge.

In addition to cukes, you will need cider vinegar (a little more mild than white), pickling salt, fresh dill heads, garlic, red pepper flakes, sugar, and pickling spices. I buy my pickling spices in the bulk section of Winco, but there are also recipes for making your own, if you wish.

Prepare two quart jars, they should be sterilized in boiling water for 10 minutes or run through the dishwasher as a guard against spoilage. This is the one time I reuse the lids, as they are not actually sealed for refrigerator storage (to ensure proper seals in fully canned products I always use new lids- this is not the area to scrimp).

Scrub the cucumbers. See all the little ones I use? My favorite pickles are “baby” ones and it’s the main reason I grow cucumbers. I used to pay a lot for “baby” pickles in the store and even buying from farms I couldn’t pick out only the little ones. Yeah, for some reason they frowned on that.

So I grow my own and if it were up to me I would preserve only the little ones, but my son loves the big ones, so I put a few big ones in each jar. Is that love, or what?

OK, we need to take the time to slice off the blossom end. That would be the end that doesn’t have the stem that was attached to the vine. You may laugh, but I had to learn these things! Apparently, there’s a wicked enzyme here in this little end that will turn your pickles to a soft, NOT CRISP, pickle.

And since we’re making this recipe in order to get a crisp pickle, let’s not cut this corner, OK?

Just cut a little off. We do not want pickles with sawed-off ends. This I tell you from experience (hey, if a little’s good, then a lot’s great, right?).

Fill each nice, clean jar with four cloves of garlic, sliced to release all the garlicky goodness, and the dill head. If you’d like more dill flavor, add a teaspoon of dried dill as well.

Then add a few shakes of red pepper flakes. If this is a little too loosey-goosey for you, use between 1/8 and 1/4 of a teaspoon for each jar, depending on the spiciness level you’d like to achieve. Update: this was not spicy enough for us, and now I use about three dried hot peppers for each jar.

And if you’d like to achieve no spiciness, feel free to leave them out altogether.

Pack the cucumbers into the jars, right on top of the other ingredients. You can pack them as tight as you can, but allow enough room at the top for the brine to cover all the cucumbers.

Now, add the vinegar and water to a saucepan. I use 1-1/4 cup of both for each quart jar. Then a couple of teaspoons (I added a tablespoon in the picture for the 2 quarts) of pickling spice, the pickling salt, and the sugar.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour into the jar(s), filling to cover the cucumbers, but leaving about 1/4″ head space (the space between where the brine stops and the very top of the jar rim).

Since I’m storing these in the fridge, I don’t have to be quite so particular about the head space. These have more like 1/2″, but it covers the cukes, so it’s OK.

Label the jar(s), making sure they include the day as well as the month and year. That’s because you will need to let these “cure” in the refrigerator about 3 to 4 weeks before they’ve pickled enough, so you will want to have the day that you made them on the label. I think they are best after a whole month, so usually we wait that long at least, and they will continue to improve over the months in storage.

I make enough quarts with our summer harvest of cucumbers to last us until the following summer and have had no problems with them storing in the fridge for that length of time. I’ve kept track over the years and know that 12 to 13 quarts is what we will eat, so I make that and add to that number if I’m going to be giving some away.

Note: If you are going to be preserving, I really encourage you to keep a “food preservation journal” which is just a small notebook where you can write down the dates and things you made for storage. It’s a great record for what worked, what didn’t and how many jars your family went through in order to make enough for the next year.

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Easy Garlic Dill Pickles for the Refrigerator

Ingredients per quart (increase as needed for each quart added):
  • about 1 quart pickling cucumbers, washed and blossom-end cut off
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
  • 1 large fresh dill head (plus 1 tsp. dried dill seed, if desired)
  • pinch (1/8 tsp) red pepper flakes (optional) or dried, whole hot red peppers as desired
  • 1-1/4 c. cider vinegar
  • 1-1/4 c. water
  • 2 tsp. pickling spices
  • 1 Tb. + 1 tsp. pickling salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. sugar
  1. Prepare number of quart jars equal to amount of pickles by running through the dishwasher or boiling for 10 minutes in a pot of water to sterilize.
  2. Place the garlic and dill head in the bottom of each jar. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Pack with the cucumbers leaving 1/2-inch head space.
  3. In a large saucepan, combine water, vinegar, spices, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Ladle the brine into the jar leaving 1/4″ head space. Attach lids.
  5. Let cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.
  6. The pickles can be eaten after about a month, and continue to improve over the months of storage. I’ve stored them for 12 months and they just increase in flavor.

Comments

  1. Jenelle says:

    These look great! I made bread and butter pickles about a month ago and actually canned them. They were a huge hit and are gone already!

    We need some more pickles so I’m going to try these out this weekend.

    Jenelle

  2. Hi Jami – I’ve been reading some of your older posts regarding canning and preserving. I’m going to be trying my hand at pickles this year and loved this post in particular.

    I have a question…

    I’ve been saving Mt Olive pickle jars (and their lids) and was wondering if I can use these to make refrigerator pickles.

    Thanks!
    Candi

    sweetdarlin25(at)yahoo(dot)com

  3. [email protected] says:

    can you leave out the sugar

  4. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Candi- Since these aren’t put in a canner, you can use any jar and lid combo you’d like!

    mfpikles- The little bit of sugar is just there to balance out the vinegar- go ahead and leave it out and see how you like it. You can really adjust this recipe to your own tastes, which is nice.

  5. Thanks so much for the great instructions! I’ve never made my own pickles before, but I got cukes, garlic and dill heads from my CSA this week. Thought I’d give it a try. I can’t wait till they’re ready to eat! Here’s how mine turned out:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/dawnsrecipes/5958202497

  6. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Dawn- Beautiful photo! I love to see the peppers in there ’cause we like ‘em spicy. For some reason my pickles last year weren’t dilly enough, so I’m going to add more dill seed this year in addition to the fresh dill. Hope you like them!

  7. Thanks! I’m still having a blast playing with this recipe. I’ve got 5 different batches going each with their own variation.

  8. Hi Jami,
    I only have a few cucumbers ready at a time, since I only planted a small cucumber batch. Do you think I could add cucumbers to the jar as I pick them, or would I have to heat up the brine again?
    Thank you!

  9. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Rose- I have done this towards the end of the season and then waited a couple months after I was done putting in the last cukes and they were fine. I’m not sure if a “pickle connoisseur” would agree, but for us they worked! :-)

  10. If you don’t have fresh dill heads, could you just use dill weed from a jar [plus everything else] and how much. Love everything on your website!

  11. Hi Jami,

    Do you have an extra fridge in which to keep your unprocessed pickles? I wouldn’t have room in my kitchen fridge to store that many quarts (which is about the same number of quarts of dills I do each year). I use two large heads of dill per jar + 2 large cloves of garlic but otherwise your recipe is very close to the one I use. Really enjoy reading about your garden : )

    • Yes, we have another fridge – just a small one is all that’s needed for the unprocessed pickled cukes and jalapenos we like. They are so crisp it’s worth it to us to keep the fridge. :)

  12. Jamie,
    I have an abundance of jalapeños this year. I have a jar of pickled jalapeños (store bought) in the fridge. Do you think I can use the brine leftover from this for my fresh ones?

    Melinda

    • I’m sure you can try, Melinda – it will probably pickle them. Making a new brine isn’t hard, though, if you want to start fresh. But I know I’ve reused my brine in the past and it’s worked fine, so I’d assume it would be the same with the store bought.

  13. I’ve been canning since the mid-90′s and I’ve never tried pickles. I have 4 quarts of these on our kitchen counter right now. Our 20 year old daughter walked in the kitchen and exclaimed, “Oh, those are so pretty!”. I just rolled my eyes and she replied, “No, like…Martha Stewart.” They’re not quite “Martha Stewart”, but I can’t wait to taste them anyway to see how they turn out! Thank you, Jami, for the recipe. :-)

  14. Can I use this same process/recipe for the green beans and keep them in the refrigerator instead of the whole canning process that you use on the Pickled Beans? I only plan on making a few jars so I know they’ll be eaten quickly.

    • You certainly can, though I never have just because I like green beans to be cooked. If you like them more raw (and crisp), then go for it!

  15. Jami, I have some smaller extra cucumbers and thought I would try your recipe. Have you ever sliced them? I like mine in spears or rounds verses the whole pickle and was wondering if you have tried it this way, and if they stay crisp this way too?

    • I would think so, Kathy, since they aren’t processed, though I’ve never tried it. I did this year, though, as I had to slice up some bigger cucumbers to fit into the jars around the whole ones, so I’ll find out along with you ;)

  16. I have a TON of cucumbers all of a sudden and they’re the really long ones. Almost like the English ones you see in the grocery store. I’m gonna try cutting them to length and making spears. I just need to make a run to Winco for the goodies. I’m excited!

  17. Can the garlic dills be made then cold packed so they can set in the cupboard?

    • What does ‘cold packed’ mean, Kathy? If you mean turned upside down to ‘seal’ or anything other than water-bath canning, the USDA doesn’t approve that for safety and I don’t do it. That’s why I keep them in the fridge. :) If you want to keep in the cupboard, you need to can traditionally, though you can try low temp pasteurization to help retain some crispness (visit the USDA site for more info).

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