Canned vs. Refrigerator Pickles (scroll for my secret recipe)

 When it comes to preserving cucumbers, you have three delicious options:

1. Pickle them using the canning method

2. Make refrigerator pickles;

3. Or ferment them.

I have yet to play around with the third option, but the first two I have lots of success with.

Canning pickles is pretty straight forward. Find a recipe you want to try and follow the directions. The only tips I have for this method are to be sure that your cucumbers are extremely freshly picked. My mom tends to pick cucumbers for 3-4 days leading up to my visit, and she stores them in the refrigerator. By the time I get them home, they aren’t fresh enough for crisp canned pickles. It’s still possible to can them (since they are relatively fresh) but they work best as thin hamburger pickle slices. 

The second tip I have for canning pickles is to be mindful of rinsing the pickles if the recipe calls for brining for a day. My grandma has a family recipe for chow chow (a pickle relish that involves cabbage, cucumbers, green beans, green tomatoes and more) that requires soaking the veg in a salt bath (brine) for half a day. The recipe doesn’t say to rinse the veg afterward, just drain them. I made the mistake of following the recipe precisely and not using common sense — drain and rinse the salty vegetables! They even tasted too salty when I sampled them in the morning after brining overnight. Silly, no?

The chow chow I made that year was delicious and still edible but way saltier than I normally go for.

Now! On to my favorite way to preserve cucumbers… refrigerator pickles.

What’s The Dill With These Easy Pickles?

Ingredients:

  • 8 1/4 c. sliced cucumbers (1/4 inch slices)
  • 2 c. white vinegar
  • 2 c. water
  • 3 Tbsp. pickling or canning salt (iodized salt makes the veg an off color)
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. pickling spice
  • 1 tsp. dried dill (or probably 1 Tbsp. of fresh chopped dill if you have it)
  • 5 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 5 cloves garlic, halved
  • Jalapenos or other hot pepper (optional)
  1. Prepare and place cucumber slices aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar, water, pickling salt, sugar and pickling spice. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 10 minutes.
  3. Divide the dill, mustard seed and garlic among the jars you are using. It took me 2 quart jars for this recipe. Add cucumber slices (and any hot peppers) and pack them tightly within 1/2 inch headspace of the top of the jar.
  4. Pour the pickling liquid over the top of the jars, leaving that 1/2 inch headspace. Apply lids and allow to cool. Refrigerate.
  5. These taste best if you wait a couple days before eating. Eat them all within 3 months.

I adapted this recipe from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving to better suit my taste. My step children said it was some of the best pickles they’d ever had. Eeeeeeeeever!

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