Go to Home Page

refrigerator pickles for a memory

August 10th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

Something glorious happened in Minnesota in the last week; that stifling, oppressive heat and humidity finally was swept away and in it’s place is cool, breezy sunshine, temperate nights and audible sighs of relief. A pair of jeans even made an appearance lately.

Now I do realize that August can still be hot and sticky, but I am really crossing my fingers that the worst of it is over. I enjoy my outdoor time, my biking and fresh air and I would really love to get back in to this without taking a bath in my own sweat.

And it is that time of year too, for pickling, for canning, for preserving. I haven’t leapt headfirst in to the preserving craze that a  lot of home cooks are on these days, but this year, faced with an abundance of cucumbers from our garden at the lake, I did tackle making refrigerator pickles and I’m so glad that I did. These pickles pack a punch of memory that I love with each crunchy, sweet-sour bite.

When I was very little and before my parents split, we spent a few summers enjoying a vacation at a resort near Detroit Lakes. It was a perfectly idyllic week for both parents and children, as this resort had all sorts of activities planned out, guaranteed to keep kids happy and occupied, while parents had their own time to sit and relax. Every morning, the staff would gather the kids right after breakfast, and some days, keep us busy until we arrived, breathless, grimy and sunburned back at the dining hall for dinner. Three squares a day were served, and at dinnertime, a relish plate was on every table that held carrot and celery sticks and tiny, sweet-sour pickles that I loved. The vegetables, inevitably, would absorb some of the pickle brine, so everything sort of tasted the same, but I loved nibbling off that plate and had no idea how much I missed that flavor until last Fall when my sister-in-law brought a jar of refrigerator pickles to a family gathering and I lifted one to my mouth for that first, long forgotten crunch.

It was like rapidly falling backwards in time to being 5 years old, reaching across the huge rectangle table in that massive dining hall, with floor to ceiling windows open to the summer breeze and surrounded by the last memories of my family completely intact. That sweet, salt, celery and mustard seed flavor had eluded me for a lifetime and I didn’t even know it until I tasted those pickles. I was flooded with memories, scents and nostalgia. I could smell the lake, our cabin, the cotton sheets we slept on, suntan lotion, the hot dry grass underfoot. I could see that resort in it’s entirety. I could recall the fun and laughter and the sheer exhaustion of falling asleep after a long, busy and exciting day. It was the last memories of perfection in life, before fracture, before pain and shouting and the upheaval of divorce. It was the end of one life and the beginning of another. But now, where life is happy and easy, where the love abounds, the flavor comes full circle. And I’ve made six quarts of these lovely little pickles, and we’re all enjoying them greatly.

There’s very little work involved in making these pickles, outside of stuffing the jars with cucumber slices. Our garden cucumbers from the lake were quite round and large by the time I got hold of them; with smaller cukes, the stuffing becomes much easier. Add in slices of onion and peppers, crushed cloves of garlic, slices of jalapeño for kick. I made my quarts with garlic and love the flavor. One 12-hour period in the refrigerator and you’re done.


Refrigerator Pickles

For the Brine:
1 c. white vinegar
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 T. kosher salt
1 t. celery seed
1 t. mustard seed

In a non-reactive pot, bring ingredients for brine to a boil, stirring well to help dissolve the sugar and salt. Place sliced cucumbers and any extra flavor additions in quart jar. Pour brine over, screw down the top and shake gently to distribute. Allow to cool slightly, then place in refrigerator for a minimum of 12 hours. Make sure you’re putting the jars in the refrigerator while they are still fairly warm. You should be able to hold them, but still feel the heat.

Give the jars a good shake the next day to redistribute the brine and slices. This recipe should make enough brine for 1-2 quarts.


RECIPE NOTES: I doubled this recipe for my first batch, which made three quarts, easily. The next batch, in which I had 12 huge cucumbers to use, I packed 4 quart jars, made a 5X batch and ended up with quite a bit of brine left.

Be sure you are really packing the jars well. These will shrink considerably while pickling.

For both batches I made, I used a small amount of brown sugar in place of the white. It gives the pickles a bit more deep flavor. It’s not necessary at all, just an option.


Apparently, it's all about green today

November 14th, 2008 | 2 Comments »

It’s National Pickle Day and National Guacamole Day. I suppose since ‘being green’ is the new buzzword phrase that everyone is throwing down- even computer software, which makes me think ‘What the heck is ‘green’ software?’- naturally having a green food day is apropos.

picklesThink pickles and you think cucumbers, you don’t think ‘process’ but pickling is a process and not a food. It’s like saying ‘I need a Kleenex’. Kleenex is a brand, but what you want is a tissue. I know that I’m just comparing apples to oranges and y’all really don’t need to be told this; pickles have undergone that etymology that now means a crisp briny cucumber, not a process of preservation and pickles have become much more mainstream as well. There are companies who produce artisan pickles out of a wide variety of vegetables, honing the art with a fine tooth comb and creating an new legion of fans to all things vinegar. It’s not just about sauerkraut anymore.

Pickling has been around for 5,000 years and differs from canning in that it does not require the item to be completely sterile before it is sealed. The distinguishing feature of pickling is to produce a pH that is low enough to kill of bacteria; natural fermentation at room temperature, provided by lactic acid bacteria produces this required level. The presence of acid or saline, along with the deprivation of oxygen brings the desired end result. These days, with refrigeration, this means of preservation isn’t as much a necessity as it is a pleasure; people love pickles of any kind. Asian cuisine is renowned for pickled items, most notably kimchi and umeboshi, in Britain you find pickled eggs and onions in many pubs as a snack food, herring is pickled in Scandinavia and we’ve already mentioned sauerkraut. Italian Giardiniera is a very popular dish of pickled vegetables including onions, carrots, celery and cauliflower. Middle Eastern countries serve pickles at almost every meal and of course, in the USA we have pickles galore of every kind, shape, and size- sweet, dill, hot and either crispy or soft; they’re sliced, quartered, whole in all sizes from the tiny cornichons to the gigantic sized pickles on a stick. Olives are pickles, or simply pickled. Okra is a popular pickled item in the South and pickled peppers are found from Italian to Mexican cuisine. Pickling can be considered a dry cure too, such as corned beef, pastrami, lox or even ham.

Had enough of pickles? I’m not a huge fan of them although olives tend to make me weak-kneed; my pickles need to be so crisp that they snap when you bite them and although I can eat the sweet bread-and-butter pickle slices on hamburgers, I prefer dill pickle relish on my bratwurst and fuggedabout sauerkraut. Just fuggedabottit.

On the other hand, guacamole is something I could eat every day.


I love a chunkier guacamole as opposed to the smooth version. Traditional Mexican standard ingredients include avocados, minced tomatoes and white onions, plenty of cilantro, lime juice, garlic and salt. Made it in a molcajete or just stirred together in a bowl, it goes with your burrito, taco, enchilada, taquito, chalupa, chimichanga, corn chip or simply on a spoon.

This is how I like to make it: Split three avocadoes and carve into a dice, scooping the flesh into a bowl. Add one seeded and diced tomato, lime zest and juice from half a lime, a rounded teaspoon of kosher salt, half a teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder and a few shakes of garlic and onion powder. I don’t add raw onion or garlic- too strong. Stir to combine and allow to sit for 10 minutes or so before serving.


Enjoy the green today!