Refrigerator Dill Pickles
Yield: 2 quart jars (recipe easily halves or doubles)
No canner is needed and once the spices are assembled, these crisp pickles come together quite easily and may just become a summertime favorite!


Ingredients

For the soaking step:

  • 6 cups cool water
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

To make the pickles:

  • 1-1/4 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 pounds Kirby or other pickling cucumbers, cut into halves or spears (slice off and discard blossom end as it contains an enzyme that can soften the pickles)
  • 16 fresh dill sprigs
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Soak the cucumbers: In a large, non-reactive bowl (such as ceramic or stainless steel), stir together the 6 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt.  Add the cut cucumbers, and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours.  (I place a small plate on top to ensure that all of the cucumbers are submerged.)  After 12 hours, drain but do not rinse.

    Make the brine: Combine the vinegar, remaining 2 tablespoons salt, and sugar in a small non-reactive saucepan (such as stainless steel, ceramic, or Teflon) over high heat.  Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cold water.  Make head tip: At this point, the brine may be refrigerated until ready to use.

    Stuff the drained cucumbers into two clean quart-size jars. Divide the dill, garlic cloves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes evenly between the jars.  Pour the vinegar mixture over top.  If necessary, add a bit of cold water to the jars to ensure the cucumbers are covered. As long as the jars are well packed with cucumbers, you should not have to add much water.  Place the lid on the jars and refrigerate.  After 24 hours, the pickles will have good flavor, but the flavor will continue to improve over several days.  (My brother-in-law declares that pickle perfection occurs on Day 4.) The pickles will keep in the refrigerator for at least one month, if they last that long.

    Options: Christine likes to add 1/4 teaspoon celery seed (not celery salt) to each quart jar, and several family members like a spicy dill version.  For that, I add one Serrano or red chili pepper, which I slit down the side, to each jar.  For spicier pickles, add additional peppers or a hotter pepper variety to suit your taste.


Notes

  • The brining step creates a slightly crisper pickle and removes any bitterness than is sometimes present in pickling cucumbers. It also allows the pickling solution to more deeply penetrate the cucumbers.  That said, the pickles will still taste quite good if you choose to forego this step. In this case, increase the salt in the vinegar mixture to 3 tablespoons.
  • I often reuse the brine, often without the brining step, when I have a few extra cucumbers that need to be used. Simply add the cut cucumbers to the brine and let them steep.

What is pickling salt?  Pickling salt (also called canning salt or preserving salt) is pure granulated salt (sodium chloride).  It doesn’t contain anti-caking ingredients or iodine, which can turn pickling liquid cloudy or make the pickles dark.  Pickling salt’s granules are finer than kosher or table salt, making them easy to dissolve in a brine. That said, the finer granule means, tablespoon for tablespoon, you end up using more salt and your pickles will taste saltier.  Morton and Ball are two common brands available at grocery stores, usually in the salt section or next to the canning jars in hardware stores.  To avoid clumping, pickling salt should be stored in an airtight container away from moisture.

Is pickling salt really necessary?  While pickling salt is certainly designed for pickling, it isn’t the only salt that can be used. Kosher salt is a great alternative.  Generally speaking, it’s recommended to use a brand like Diamond Crystal, which is pure salt with no additives.  Morton contains anti-caking agents, although I have used this brand and was hard-pressed to notice any clouding. Pure sea salt can also be used in pickling.  Again, the size of the grain will affect the level of saltiness.

Although table salt is perfectly safe to use in pickling, it isn’t recommended because the quality of pickles may suffer due to its additives.  I have not tried table salt to offer a first hand opinion.

Bottom line:  I use kosher salt because it’s what I have on hand and prefer the slightly less-salty taste created by the larger granules.

 


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