Refrigerator Dill Pickles

August 24, 2011

I get really emotional when I eat pickles. Homemade ones, of course.

I can and pickle for experience of it, more than for the end product.¬† It’s how I give myself a little Spring, Summer, or Fall in the dead of Winter. Every time I open a jar, I close my eyes and try very hard to remember the details the day. How hot was it? What did the leaves look like in the tree outside our window? What did we wear? Each jar gives me a little rush of nostalgia.

The jar of pickles I made Saturday has a special significance. I made these on the very last weekend of our summer. That is, the very last weekend before Will started school again. Let me tell you about it.

The best way to combat the doldrums of adulthood is to pretend you are a child, but have budget and transportation of an adult. We spent Sunday doing only what we wanted. We woke up late. We went mini-golfing, drove Go Karts, and played Skeeball. We exchanged the Skeeball tickets we won for crazy straws and temporary tatoos. Instead of eating lunch, we ate Blizzards at Dairy Queen (Snickers for me, Heathbar for Will). We went to go see Bridesmaids at the discount movie theatre. I skipped my shower, because I didn’t want to wash off my frog and lizard tattoos.

And I made these pickles. And with every precise (or slightly imprecise) slice of cucumber, with every lid I screwed on nice and tight, I meditated on each moment of our wonderful day.

Opening this jar will be so very nice.

REFRIGERATOR DILL PICKLES (from Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving’sRefrigerator Dill Slices)

Yields about 5 pint jars of pickles

Though I haven’t tasted the finished product yet, I am certain these will be amazing. I ate a pickle or two before I put them in a jar. Yes, that means I ate it when it was a hot, briny cucumber. But my oh my, what a wonderful combination of salty and sour. It will be hard to wait the full 2 weeks.

Ingredients

8 1/4 cups sliced trimmed pickling cucumbers (1/4 inch/0.5cm slices)

2 cups white vinegar

2 cups water

6 tbsp pickling or canning salt

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tbsp pickling spice (available in the spice aisle of well-stocked supermarkets)

7 1/2 tsp dill seeds

5 tsp mustard seeds

1 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns

5 cloves garlic, halved

Recipe

1. Put cucumber slices in a large heatproof bowl.

2. Combine vinegar, water, pickling salt, sugar, and pickling spice in the saucepan in a medium stainless steel saucepan over medium high heat and stir occasionally until sugar and salt dissolve. Let the mixture come to a boil, then turn down the heat and cover with a lid. Boil gently for 10 minutes.

3. Pour the hot brine over cucumbers. Cover the bowl with waxed paper and let it rest until the mixture cools to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

4. In each mason jar, place 1 1/2 tsp dill seeds, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns, and 2 garlic clove halves. Fill jars with cucumber slices until they are 1/2 inch from the top. Pour pickling liquid into each jar until the liquid covers the cucumbers. Leave 1/2 inch headspace from the rim of the jar. Screw lids onto jars. Place in refrigerator. Allow cucumbers to marinate at least 2 weeks. Use within 3 months.

A few weeks ago, Will and me and our friends meant to hike a 14er, but weather delayed our athletic plans and pushed us into the loving arms of a delicious 4 hour happy hour. But then last week, Will and me and our friends Caitlin and Ben were not delayed by weather and accomplished our goal of hiking a 14er! Actually, we hiked two, but only because they were mostly adjoined. Here we are, enjoying ourselves at the top of Greys Peak.

It was an EXTREMELY long journey. Worthwhile, of course, but still extremely long. And when I got home I wanted (well, a nap, first) but then, something extremely salty to replace the profuse amount of back sweat I produced on the hike. I had salt, vinegar, and copious amounts of carrots from our last CSA pickup, and so, pickled carrots and cucumbers were born.

The actual brine is for a pickled carrot recipe, but I had a cucumber laying around in my fridge that otherwise would have been useless, so I doubled the brine recipe and tossed it in. The pickled cucmbers were good but the carrots–oh the carrots… now they are REALLY tasty. Pickled carrots are basically super crunchy and super tangy pickles. And they will put to shame anything you get from the cafeteria at work. So if you like your pickles extra crunchy, hit these up, stat!

PICKLED CARROTS & CUCUMBERS (adapted from smittenkitchen who adapted it from Gourmet Magazine)

Note: Ideally, you will buy small pickling cucumbers. If unavailable, use the smallest and firmest cucumbers you can find.

Another note: Though the pickled cucumbers are good, the pickled carrots are the true star here. To make this a carrots-only event, leave out the cucumber and halve the brine recipe.

Ingredients

1 pound carrots, cut into 3 1/2- by 1/3-inch sticks

1 pound cucumbers, cut into small rounds

2.5 cups water

2 cups  cider or plain vinegar (the former makes a sweeter, milder brine)

1/2 cup sugar

4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed

3 tablespoons dill seeds or dill weed

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

Recipe

Place carrots and cucumbers in a heatproof bowl or container, placing cucumbers on top (if they are on the bottom of a narrow container, they will float the carrots up to the top and partially out of the pickling brine). Bring remaining ingredients to a boil in saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Pour pickling liquid over carrots and cool, uncovered. Chill carrots, covered, at least 1 day for flavors to develop.

Carrots keep, chilled in an airtight container, 1 month.

Pickled Red Onions

June 22, 2010

I know what you are thinking. Does that hot pink color really occur in nature? Yes, it does. Isn’t it marvelous? It’s the result of adding apple cider vinegar to raw red onions. Elle Woods would be jealous.

I love summer barbecues. I have a group of immensely talented friends who like to spice up the typical BBQ with treats like grilled marinated zucchini, corn with herb butter, homemade pickles. It’s quite delicious. So to be a bit different, I thought I’d make some pickled red onions to go atop some burgers and brats at the last barbecue. Then I proceeded to forget to bring them. But they are still in my fridge and I am certain there is another barbecue on the horizon where others can enjoy them. They keep for 2-3 months refridgerated.

Pickled red onions can also be used to spice up a potato salad, to garnish a green salad, or to be used as a side for fried food. Pickled vegetables cut the grease of deep fried food. Perhaps that’s why I can eat so many fried pickle chips. Don’t knock ’em ’til you’ve tried ’em!

PICKLED RED ONIONS (adapted slightly from David Lebovitz’s Pickled Red Onions)

Makes 2 pint jars

Ingredients

1.75 cups apple cider vinegar

6 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

2 bay leaves

10 allspice berries

10 whole cloves

2 small, dried chile peppers

2 large red onion, peeled, and thinly sliced into rings
Recipe

1. In a small, non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, seasonings and chile until boiling.
2. Add the onion slices and lower heat, then simmer gently for 30 seconds.
3. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
4. Transfer the onions and the liquid into a jar then refrigerate until ready to use.