At a recent book event for Little Farm Homegrown, a local chef, Christy Fox from Evolve Chocolates + Café, stopped by to share a plate of her refrigerator pickles. She pickles pretty much every late summer vegetable: bell peppers, onion, zucchini, cabbage, even turnips! Chef Christy’s method turned out to be a lot like mine, basic and super easy. She recommends rice vinegar, to allow the vegetable flavors to shine through, garlic, spices, and herbs like thyme and tarragon, then allows the pickles to mellow in the fridge for 4 days before eating.
My cucumber patch exploded this week, so yesterday was pickle day at Berryridge Farm. Although I still use apple cider vinegar (since I like strong vinegar flavors), after getting pickling advice from a pro, I modified my recipe a bit: instead of boiling all the vinegar with the spices, I boiled only half as Chef Christy suggested, adding the remainder to the brine to cool it. I like sweet pickles, so I used sugar and honey in the brine too.
I often mix and match recipes for both sweet and savory foods, using my favorite elements of each recipe. I’ve been inspired by the recipes Scottish author Jenny Colgan shares at the end of her novels, which, for each dish, tend to be more of a method than an exact preparation. But hopefully following a basic method rather than a precise measure of exactitude allows for more cooking and baking creativity!
Back to Refrigerator Pickles and my basic method:
6 or 7 large slicing cucumbers, cut into rounds, packed into large jars or any containers of your choice. Add 1 large clove garlic, sliced thinly, to each container
2 cups apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s Organic)
½ cup water
1/3 cup sugar
Honey, seasonings, and spices
I bring 1 cup of the vinegar with the water and sugar plus salt to taste (I don’t like a lot of salt) to a boil, then remove the pan from the stove. After allowing the brine cool a bit, I add the 2nd cup of vinegar and 2 Tablespoons honey and stir well. When the brine has cooled to warm/lukewarm, I pour it into the filled jars, hopefully covering most of the sliced cukes. After a quick visit to the garden for fresh dill and dill seed, I add a sprig of dill and a couple of spoonfuls of the seed to each jar. And into the fridge they go!
The refrigerator pickle recipes I’ve seen in magazine say the pickles keep for a month, but Chef Christy says they should be good to go for three. If you go for longer storage, sterilizing your jars first is probably a good idea, then store your pickles on the lowest shelf of your refrigerator, toward the back. Happily, that should keep you in pickled summertime veggies until the holidays!
So far, my pickling adventures have been a bit limited, mostly cukes, carrots and asparagus (in early summer). But I think with this kind of pickling, anything goes!