"I think pickles are cucumbers that sold out. They sold their soul to the devil, and the devil is dill..." --Mitch Hedberg
So I bought my own copy of Canning for a New Generation which is full of swell ideas about putting up and putting by without anxiety. And maybe I shall foray into hot water canning one of these days, but in the meantime, my cucumber plants are making prolific miracles in the garden, and what's a girl with a sour tooth to do?
Make icebox pickles.
To clarify: these are quick-brined pickles that are meant to be jarred and stored in the refrigerator until quick consumption. You can put them up, put them into the fridge, and serve them 2 hours later. Or they keep practically indefinitely.
For pickles that you are going to store on a pantry shelf, you would need to follow hot water bath canning protocol. Hold that thought.
Canning jars come in all sizes but I bought a case of half-pint ones. They're not intimidating, they look darling in the fridge and on the table, they make a nice little gift for a hostess, and there's no guilt in polishing off the entire contents of whatever may be in them (cough).
As for the cukes, you want pickling or "Kirby" cucumbers. I grow two kinds in my garden - "Pickalot" which are green; and "Boothby's Blonde" which are white. A mix of them looks really cool in the jar. You can of course cut the cukes into spears, or slice them into chips.
Now, brine: you need vinegar, and feel free to experiment with white, cider, what have you, there is no right or wrong, it's all a matter of taste. As for spices, you can measure out peppercorns, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes and so forth, or you can use a pre-made pickling spice blend like McCormick's. I've done both and have to say McCormick may have an edge. Anyway, half-pint jars need approximately 1/2 cup of brine each. More or less. If you are short, simply make a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water to top them off.
So I sense Stacie is getting impatient so let's get to it.
Quick Icebox Pickles
For 4 1/2 pint jars you need:
- 5-6 pickling cucumbers (slice as you go; whatever doesn't fit in the jar, just eat yourself)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat blade of a knife
- 4 sprigs fresh dill or 1 tsp dried dill
- 1 rounded tsp kosher salt
- 2 rounded tsp sugar
- 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp peppercorns, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes OR 1 1/2 tsp of McCormick's pickling spice
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1 cup water
Wash jars, rings and lids in warm soapy water. Put one smashed garlic clove in each jar and, if using, one sprig dill. Slice or spear cucumbers and pack into jars.
In saucepan, combine water, vinegar, dried dill (if not using fresh), salt, sugar and spices. Heat until just simmering and sugar and salt are dissolved.
Ladle into jars, leaving 1/2 headspace. Put on lids and screw lids on finger-tight. Let cool to room temperature, then put into fridge. Put the jar on the table and stand back.
Now, if you have a steady supply of cukes at your service, in theory you can re-use the brine: when you eat the last pickle, just go pick 2 more cukes, wash and slice them, throw them into the jar, throw the jar back into the fridge.
So as another experiment, I tried pickling carrots. Recalling what purple carrots did to my first crockpot attempt, I stuck to just the white and orange ones in the garden. Instead of dill, I put a few sprigs of thyme in the jar (the only pint-size ones I could find), but the rest of the procedure is the same. These should chill out in the fridge for a least a week because carrots are thick and take longer to soak up brine. So hold that thought.