Pickling Time

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Six or seven years ago, when my brother and his family were still living near Fairfield, Iowa, we made our way across the countryside, past many fields of corn, to the original American Gothic farmhouse, 45 minutes away. We did what all tourists do: we donned the costumes provided in the museum shop and posed for a family portrait in front of the iconic scene, complete with pitchfork in hand. It was a small museum, but very well done, and we were glad to have made the trip. I hadn’t thought of that day for a long time, but this photo reminds me a bit of American Gothic with dill and cardboard dagger. I snapped this shot after the boys had returned from a quick jaunt to the garden to gather dill for the first batch of pickles this season…and believe me, there will be many more batches to come!

Unlike last year’s crop, which produced only a handful of pathetic looking specimens, the pickling cucumbers I planted from seed back in late May, early June are going gangbusters.  In fact, I can’t seem to spot them early enough to harvest the cukes pickle size, so I’ve been chopping them into salads and donating them to the community garden foodshelf bin as well. As I gear up to make another round of pickles and dilly beans, I thought I’d share this easy recipe for refrigerator dill pickles. I was pretty happy with how they turned out…they are crisp and have a great garlicy flavor. And, seriously, you can whip up a batch in less than 30 minutes. Here’s how.

 

Quick Refrigerator Dill Pickles

  1. Wash jars and lids in hot, soapy water, rinse well, and allow to dry. I use a couple of quart-size jars and a couple of wide mouth pint-size jars per batch.
  2. Fill a clean kitchen sink with cool water and add the pickles. Use a clean brush to scrub off any dirt. Dry pickles with a fresh kitchen towel and trim off the ends of each pickle.
  3. Gather spices. I used dill seed, mustard seed, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns.
  4. Peel and slice 4 or 5 garlic cloves. Slice a large yellow onion into rings, then cut rings into fourths.
  5. Add the following to each pint-size jar: 1/4 tsp. dill seed, 1/4 tsp. mustard seed, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp. peppercorns, 5 onion slices, 1 garlic clove, sliced, 2 3-inch fronds of fresh dill. (Double spices if using a quart-size jar.)
  6. Slice larger cucumbers into spears or thin rounds. Smaller, pickle-size cukes can be left whole (I tend to group pickles into jars according to size for consistent results…all baby dills in one jar, etc.). Pack the pickles into jars as tightly as you can without smashing them. Make sure tops of pickles are 1/2 inch below the rim of each jar.
  7. In a medium saucepan, make the brine. Combine 2 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 cups water,  2 tablespoons kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.
  8. Use a canning funnel to ladle hot brine into jars, filling until pickles are submerged. Cover with lids and rings and allow to cool to room temperature before storing in fridge. Pickles should be ready for sampling in 48 hours, but will taste better the longer they chill and marinate. Keep refrigerated and eat within two months. Enjoy!

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The pickles of my labor…looks as if I need another fridge! Since I had a batch of brine on the stove, I made pepperoncini, dilly beans, and some sweet sliced pickles as well. Seriously, if you’ve never pickled before, give it a try! It’s easy, and the results are delicious.

Stay tuned for more from the garden in the coming weeks! Until then, get busy with one of the autumn projects featured in The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book.

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