If I planted one thing successfully this year, it was cucumbers. In just a couple months, three tiny cucumber starts transformed themselves into a ravenous mass of cucumber vines, expanding outwards in all directions until they dominated the entire bed, then spilled over the wall and onto the path.
Delicate yellow flowers turned to tiny gherkin-looking fingers, then to “normal” sized cucumbers, and before I knew it I had cucumbers the size of small babies on my hands. Small babies. To my horror, their skin turned yellow and orange as they stretched to elephantitis-sized proportions.
When you’re eating cucumber salads three meals a day and still have them spilling out of your fridge every time you open the door, that can only really mean one thing: It’s time to make pickles!
I won’t pretend to be a seasoned homesteader or a master of pickling. I am certain that there are much more involved ways to make pickles, ways that require fermentation and pressure cookers and canning tongs. But a little research revealed that “refrigerator” pickles would be the easiest, and most instantly gratifying way to go about business. So that’s exactly what a pickle-enthusiast friend and I did.
The following recipe is a tried and true variation of a homemade sweet dill pickle recipe found online at pickyourown.org. They were easy, fast, and better than we could have imagined. Even the orange-skinned monsters tasted just like real pickles. All you need is a flat of canning jars which you can pick up at any local hardware store for around $10, cucumbers, and the vinegar and spices.
- 1/2-cup (packed) fresh dill
- 1 thinly sliced onions
- 1 cup sugar (original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups, but I used less and they are still VERY sweet.)
- 1-1/2 cups white vinegar (5%)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (canning or kosher is best, but not vital)
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper corns
- 12 grape leaves (optional-placing one grape leaf in the bottom of each jar is said to make your pickles more crispy, and ours turned out crispy with the grape leaf!)
- Any other spice you may think you need (some recipes call for cloves, but ours were delicious without.)
That should cover 6 cups of thinly sliced cucumbers. (In other words, you will probably have to triple or quadruple this recipe if you are going to make 12 one-quart jars of pickles like we did.)
Bring the above ingredients to a simmer to melt the sugar.
Be sure to use a non-metal pot or a coated metal (teflon, silverstone, enamel, etc.) without breaks in the coating, as the metal reacts with the vinegar and makes the pickle solution turn cloudy.
Pack the cucumbers whole or slices into the jars and pour the simmering pickle liquid over them. (You can also add the grape leave, fresh dill, and jalapeños to the jar.)
Fill the jars to within ¼-inch of the top, seat the lid and hand-tighten the ring around them.
Store them in your fridge right after making them. They’re ready to eat in 24 hours! YUM!