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.
Easy Garlic Dill Pickles for the Refrigerator
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- In a large saucepan, combine water, vinegar, spices, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Ladle the brine into the jar leaving 1/4″ head space. Attach lids.
- Let cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.
- 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.[/recipe]