Hi — I'm Phil, Kathy's husband, and your guest blogger this week for TU living!
In late spring, I submitted an article to my favorite outdoor magazine, Backwoodsman, on a handmade knife I crafted from natural materials. The editor of Backwoodsman Magazine, Charlie Riche, loved my write-up and told me he would use it in the future. I was eagerly flipping through every page of the July/August issue for the second time looking for my submission when my heart sank as I got to the last page and realized that I didn't make the issue again.
As I stared at the last page of the issue, the title of the article caught my eye, "Easy to Make Refrigerator Dill Pickles". Every time I have tasted a homemade pickle, it was so much more interesting and tasty than the processed pickles from the supermarket. I hadn't taken the time to understand the techniques and process of pickling, and was more than a little intimidated by it. But as I read the article, I said to myself, "I can do this!" and committed to giving it a try. The neat thing about this recipe is you can make a jar of great pickles and be eating them one week later!
People have been using pickling to preserve foods for thousands of years in order to store excess during bountiful seasons. Fish, vegetables, eggs, fruit—you can pickle just about anything you could imagine! There are several pickling techniques, including the more complex method of fermentation pickling, but the pickling technique I am sharing is quick, easy, and simpler than most methods.
Refrigerator pickling is a shortcut technique that, while easier, has one limitation. With this technique, you need to store the finished product in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage. If you want to store your pickles in the basement or cupboard without refrigeration, you need to process your jars in a boiling water bath (not covered in this blog, but easy to research).
For my first attempt, I decided to make pickled eggs with onions and dill pickles with onions and peppers. I really loved the way the green, white, and red vegetables looked in the mason jar when I was finished!
Basic Pickling Recipe (2-3 jars):
- 32oz wide mouth Mason jars with covers
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 4 cups water
- 3 tsp dried dill (or put a few fresh sprigs in each jar)
- 3 tsp pickling Spice
- 7 tbsp kosher Salt
- Crushed red pepper (optional ~⅛ - ¼ tsp per jar to add a little zip)
- Pickling cucumbers (~2 per jar)
- 1 Sweet red pepper (or Hot pepper)
- 1 Sweet onion
- Fresh garlic (3-4 cloves per jar)
- Hard boiled Eggs (6-8 per jar)
Mix roughly equal parts white vinegar and water with Kosher salt, spices, and dill. Bring to a boil. Wash cucumbers and peppers, peel the onion. Cut the cucumbers into slices or spears, slice peppers, onions, and peel the garlic cloves. Run the mason jars and covers through the dishwasher to sterilize them. Being neat and clean when working is essential—clean counters, knives, hands, and cutting boards please!
Stuff the mason jar starting with a few cloves of garlic and some sliced onions, then put in the cucumber spears and pepper spears. then more onions on top. Carefully pour the boiling mixture (I transferred to a glass Pyrex liquid measuring cup first) into the mason jar within 1/2" of the top. Screw the seal and cover on (hand tighten) and flip it over. Let them cool on the counter for about 15 minutes, then move into the refrigerator. Flipping allows the hot liquid to kill any stray bacteria on the lip of the jar. Now the hard part, waiting a week for the pickling magic to happen!
For the pickled eggs, just whip up some hard boiled eggs (boil for 13 minutes, cool for 5 minutes then run under cold water and the shells peel right off). Put garlic, onions, eggs, a dash of crushed red pepper, and the pickling liquid together just like for the pickles. Eggs take longer to reach perfection, give them three or four weeks in the refrigerator if you can hold out that long!
Tips: To judge the amount of pickling liquid you need for your batch, make about 1/2 to 3/4 the volume of your mason jars. Since you fill the jars to the very top, you need more than you think.
While sampling the first batch of pickles over the Labor Day weekend, I was so nervous as I opened the first jar—what if they were awful...but the first bite proved they were delicious and a huge hit with family and neighbors. They were crisp and salty with a nice zingy flavor and had interesting subtle hints of dill, mustard, ginger, and pepper. The garlic cloves pack a spicy punch, if you love garlic, chomp on a piece. Since the liquid goes in hot and then contracts as it cools, the jars had a nice vacuum seal.
I experimented a bit, making some jars with the pickling spice, some without, some with crushed red pepper, and one jar without onions. You can also make a sweet pickle using this method, just research “refrigerator sweet pickles recipe”. To make this batch, I spent about 4 hours preparing, processing, and cleaning up. Pickling would make a great activity to do with your kids or grandchildren. Give this easy, quick pickling recipe a try, your friends and family will be amazed by your great pickles.
P.S. My article made the September/October issue of Backwoodsman Magazine, and received a full page layout in the issue!