Saturday, August 21, 2021

Making Pickles

Freshly made pickles, ready to go in the fridge.

Refrigerator pickles are where it's at!

Wait, you don't know what refrigerator pickles are?  Don't worry, neither did I until a few years ago.  Refrigerator pickles are simply pickles that you make and store in your handy dandy refrigerator instead of canning.  You let the convenience of our modern world take over the majority of the preservation process so you can avoid timely canning.  It's also great if you're just lazy.

First off, you need cucumbers, 10+ lbs of cucumbers is best.  If you do not have cucumbers, go buy them from your favorite local farm who does have them.  Pickling cucumbers are best on the smaller side, not terribly small but not large either.  Think of the jars you'll be putting them into, slightly smaller than the jar is best.  I have another size comparison which is much better but also not very appropriate so I'll stay away from that one for now.

Pickling Cucumbers
Perfectly sized pickling cucumbers ready to rock.  My cucumber harvest was non-existent this year so I bought 12 pounds of cucumbers for $30 from Ollin Farms, which is what's pictured.

Enough chitter chatter, lets get to it and make some damn pickles!

Here's what you need for a large batch:
-12 cups water
-8 cups vinegar
-8 tablespoons salt
-4 teaspoons sugar
-Lots of freshly harvested garlic cloves (1 per jar)
-Lots of peppercorns (10ish per jar)
-Lots of freshly harvested dill (1ish sprig per jar)
-Lots of freshly harvested hot peppers (optional)
-Glass canning jars

Fill up the biggest pot you have with the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar.  Bring it to a boil, stir then let it cool down to room temperature.  The cooling part takes forever so start this early in the day and make more then you think you'll need, thus the large proportions above.  You may need to do several batches depending on how many jars you'll be making.

As the brine is cooling, take your cucumbers and put them in an ice bath for a while.  The longer the better and don't let them warm back up to room temperature.  The cold water causes your cucumbers to tighten up which makes crunchy pickles.  Think of what happens to you when you get into a freezing cold pool, it's basically the same concept just for cucumbers.

As your brine approaches room temperature, slice and dice your cucumbers.  Cut the ends off, you don't want those.  Slice your cucumbers long-wise (hot dog style) for spears.  Slice them into normal slices (hamburger style) for more traditional, burger style pickles.  I like to make both and sometimes I even get really crazy and put both in the same jar.  It's a crazy life I lead, I know.

Take your glass jars, in each jar put 1 whole garlic clove, 10 peppercorns, 1 sprig of fresh dill, 1 sliced hot pepper (if you want that jar to be hot).  Then add your cucumber spears or slices, DON'T fill the jar to the brim with the cucumbers, leave room for the brine!  Add your room temperature brine (if you don't let the brine cool your pickles will be mushy and nobody likes mushy pickles), be sure all of the cucumber slices are covered by the brine.  Put the jar in fridge.

There you have it, how to easily make refrigerator pickles with your cucumber bounty!  After 2 weeks in the fridge they're ready to eat and they stay good for quite a while.  I've had the majority of jars stay good for up to a year.  It's pretty easy to tell if a jar has gone bad, the brine is usually bubbly and the pickles have a carbonated taste to them.  If that happens then just put that jar back in the compost and move on to the next jar!

For all of you visual folks, here's a short video showing you exactly how to make these pickles.  Happy pickling!

Side Hustle Idea:  Make and sell pickles at your local farmers market!

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