Posted by Stephanie Simpson on
With the snow just-melting into memory, thinking about food for the warmer months ahead may seem premature. But when the temperature hits 30°C, the last place you’ll want to be is standing over a hot stove. Trust me - I have stories.
So today, I’m sharing a summer-worthy recipe that you can make today and enjoy into the days when the sun rises before you do.
I’m talking about those cool, crunchy, bathing suit-friendly summer sides; the ones that show up in burgers, salads, and sometimes - rather oddly - on sticks: pickles!
Store-bought pickles are expensive for what you get - cucumbers and water, mostly - and tend to be one-note: salty or sweet. Where I live, only one out of three of us bothers eating them. And rarely.
Homemade pickles, on the other hand, are supremely inexpensive, are complex in flavour, and unabashedly loved by all (“the bomb”, says Rob). And, when you use the refrigerator pickling method, they’re also super-simple to make.
Unlike fresh-pack/quick-process canning - the kind you associate with holiday gifts and bygone eras - the refrigerator method doesn’t require that you sterilize, boil, and seal jars in the name of food safety, or else. Instead, all it requires is an acid (or alcohol), a fridge, and a few easy minutes of your time.
True, your pickles will only keep for a couple months rather than a couple years. But while the summer sun is rising and pickling-worthy produce is coming into season, my guess is you’ll want to spend your time doing things other than boiling jars and worrying about botulism. But let’s talk again in the fall.
The recipe below will leave you with crunchy, not-too-tart, sweet-and-sour cucumber pickles. But keep scrolling, and you’ll find links to awesome recipes for all sorts of simple, summery refrigerator pickles, from classic cucumber dills, to ginger-infused pear and plum dessert pickles, and savoury pickles made from watermelon rind.
Make a few batches over the next month and, come summertime, you’ll be sitting - and snacking - pretty!
Kinda Sorta Sour Pickles
Adapted from Alton Brown
Makes 3-4 cups of pickles
Cucumbers - about 6-8 mini or 2 medium - thinly sliced or cut into spears*
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup of water
1 cup of cider vinegar
1/2 cup of champagne vinegar (I couldn’t find champagne, so I used white wine vinegar)
2 tbsp + 2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp pickling spice**
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1. Tightly pack*** cucumbers, onions, and garlic into a clean mason or spring-top jar.**** Combine all other ingredients in a saucepan (not copper or aluminum), bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 4 minutes to draw the flavours from the spices. Remove liquid from heat.
2. Carefully pour/ladle hot liquid into the cucumber jar, filling it to the brim.***** Allow contents of jar to cool to room temperature, then top jar up with any extra liquid (if there’s space), screw on lid and refrigerate. Pickles are ready to eat after a week, and will keep in the fridge - submerged under the liquid - for roughly two months.
*For ultimate crispness, use the freshest cucumbers you can find! To make spears, cut pickles width-wise to be a bit shorter than your jar, then cut the cylinders into wedges length-wise.
**Pickling spice is a sweet-and-spicy whole-spice blend made from things like allspice, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper, and mustard seeds (plus or minus a few others). Buy it prepared or make your own!
***Packing the cucumbers tightly will help keep them submerged under the preserving liquid and thus keep them fresh longer. Using a narrow-mouthed jar and wedging a few spears of cucumber or sturdy chunks of onion just below the mouth will also help keep your veggies in place.
****I used two 500 ml jars and divided the ingredients evenly between each, using three thinly-sliced mini-cucumbers in one and three spear-cut mini-cucumbers in the other.
***The liquid may stain light-coloured surfaces, so choose your pouring area wisely!
Want to try your hand at a different kind of refrigerator pickle? Check out these tasty recipes:
- Classic spicy dill or bread-and-butter pickles.
- Sweet, crispy, pickled red onions and pickled beets - serve in salads, on burgers or sandwiches, or simply with a piece of no-knead rye bread and good cheese (I’d go with sharp cheddar for the onions and creamy goat cheese for the beets).
- Dessert-y pickled plums and pears - I’ll be trying these with ice cream!
- Savoury watermelon rind pickles - a bit more labour-intensive than the others, but so unique!