Cucumbers in their brine, ready to go into the refrigerator and begin the pickling process
A snack-sized portion of the finished pickles, nom nom nom
OMG pickles! I love pickles! Well, I hate the sweet ones. And anything pickled that is not a cucumber. Let me start again…
I love dill pickles! And I am just kicking myself for not figuring out earlier how easy it is to make them in the refrigerator. (Canning them, while not that difficult either, is another story.) Make a brine with vinegar, water, and seasonings, and pour over salted cucumbers? I could have been doing this in kindergarten and eating awesome homemade pickles for an after-school snack every single day. Why did I have to put it off until Labor Day 2008? Ah, so many years wasted eating the store-bought ones….
In short, I have made pickles, and I am pleased with myself. They taste just like actual pickles! (I know, I know, they are actual pickles. But they were so easy to make, it seems like magic.) This very basic recipe, courtesy of Martha Stewart, makes a nice, mild dill pickle slice with a hint of garlic. I am sure it would be awesome on a hamburger or other sandwich of some kind, but so far I’ve just been eating them straight from the bowl whenever I crave a little salty, crunchy snack. Undoubtedly they are better for me than Doritos.
I was a little worried because when I was preparing to make these, I discovered that my big old bottle of white vinegar had expired. In…er, 2005. Turns out I don’t use a lot of white vinegar (balsamic, red wine, white wine, and cider, yes; white, no). The sad thing is that I went ahead and used the vinegar anyway. I know, I’m terrible! You’re never going to want to come over to my house for dinner, are you? Bad enough that at least one cat hair gets into everything I cook, but now I’m using ingredients that expired almost one presidential administration ago. To be fair, I gave the vinegar the sniff test and it smelled like…vinegar. What happens to vinegar when it gets old, anyway? Does it turn into wine? The pickles taste just like they’re supposed to and no one has died, so I suspect vinegar can’t really expire.
Oh, wait! This is what the Internet is for! Let’s check….
(Five minutes later) All right, the Vinegar Institute is on my side:
“The Vinegar Institute conducted studies to find out and confirmed that vinegar’s shelf life is almost indefinite. Because of its acid nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. White distilled vinegar will remain virtually unchanged over an extended period of time. And, while some changes can be observed in other types of vinegars, such as color changes or the development of a haze or sediment, this is only an aesthetic change. The product can still be used and enjoyed with confidence.”
I will certainly be using and enjoying the rest of my vinegar with confidence—to make more pickles! If you are a pickle fan, I strongly recommend that you do the same.
2 pounds Kirby cucumbers (small, unwaxed pickling cucumbers)
3 tablespoons coarse salt
3 cups water
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon dill seed
4 cloves garlic
2 bunches fresh dill, coarsely chopped
1. Cut the cucumbers into ½-inch rounds and place in a colander set over a bowl. Toss cucumbers well with salt and let drain in refrigerator for 1 hour.
2. About 20 minutes before cucumbers are done draining, bring water, vinegar, dill seed, and peeled garlic cloves to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Let mixture cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove cucumbers from refrigerator; rinse well and drain (discard any juice in the bowl). Pat dry between paper towels or in a dishtowel. Transfer cucumber slices to a large bowl (to save washing, I just dried out the one I’d drained them over and used it again). Add chopped dill to the bowl and toss to combine. Pour in the brine. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
4. Transfer mixture to airtight containers (I was able to skip this by making the pickles in a Pyrex bowl with a tight-fitting lid) and refrigerate at least 1 week. Pickles will keep in refrigerator for 3 more weeks.
Yields: 2 quarts
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (but most of that is draining/cooling time during which you can go away and do something else), plus 1 week for the actual pickling process