Monday, August 12, 2013

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

For weeks, those plants barely seem to grow at all. I water them. I wait. I give them nice organic fertilizer. I wait. When no one is looking, I even talk to them. Until I feel ridiculous and stop. Then, all at once cucumber vines are climbing on top of one another and rambling through the garden.

The fruit comes on slowly at first. One or two cucumbers seem to take forever to reach a decent size. Then, by the beginning of August, I'm enthusiastically heading back to the kitchen with the first half-dozen or so pickling cucumbers of summer.

I pull out six pint-sized canning jars with lids and rims. Since I'm not sealing these jars, I reuse old jam lids.

Then, I get out the rest of the ingredients:
  • 2 pounds pickling cucumbers, sliced (about 8 cups)
  • 3 teaspoons pickling salt, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 TBSP mustard seed
  • 1 TBSP celery seed
  • 3 tsp chopped garlic

Here are the steps:

1. Wash the jars well with warm sudsy water and rinse them thoroughly.

2.  Layer the sliced cucumbers 1 cup at a time in a large bowl, lightly sprinkling 1/8 tsp of salt on each layer (a total of 1 tsp).

3. Gently stir in the onion. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside for 1 hour at room temperature.

4. Drain off any liquid that's accumulated in the bottom of the bowl. Then, set the bowl aside.

5. Make the brine by combining the sugar, vinegar, water, mustard seed, celery seed, garlic and remaining 2 tsp of salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually bring the ingredients to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue at a gentle boil until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. (FYI, this will NOT make your kitchen smell pretty.)

6. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and onions. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. Using a large spoon or tongs, divide the cucumbers and onions among the jars. Then, divide the remaining liquid evenly among the jars. If necessary, add extra vinegar until the cucumbers and onions are completely covered.

8. Slide a clean table knife down the side of each jar several times to help settle the contents and remove any air gaps. This usually creates more space at the top of each jar to add more cucumber slices if needed.

9. Screw the lids onto the jars and set them aside at room temperature. Once the contents have cooled, refrigerate the jars. Allow the pickles to marinate for at least 24 hours, preferably 48 before eating. Flavor will be fully developed in about a week- if no one eats them all first. Otherwise, they will last at least six weeks in the refrigerator.

I might have cut the original recipe out of an old Family Fun magazine about ten years ago. I don't think there's anything proprietary about it, though, since anyone can find several versions of it online.

These pickles are the best!! I admit, though, by the end of August after twisting cucumber after cucumber off the vines, facing yet ANOTHER batch of pickles adds a little slump to my shoulders. Happily, good friends are usually willing to take a few jars off my hands.

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