As I’ve mentioned before, I’m (maybe a little too) wary of trying to can or preserve anything at home, which is why the only jam I make is the freezer kind. I’ve been doing this for years, but until recently I wasn’t really aware that freezer jam had a counterpart: refrigerator pickles. (I had noticed that when I marinated cooked beets in vinegar and spices, they seemed to keep for weeks in the fridge — these pickles are made in somewhat the same way.)
Though I’m not as crazy about pickles as I was in my teens, they’re still one of the tastes of summer for me. Since I hadn’t yet bought any for this summer, why not make my own?
As usual, I looked up multiple recipes and ended up creating one myself. It was harder than usual this time! People have wildly different opinions on refrigerator pickling. Some use a 2-1 ratio for vinegar and sugar, some use just the reverse, and others don’t put in any sugar at all. The spice mixture was a whole other subject. Then, once you’ve figured out what goes into your brine (pickling liquid), do you boil it, or just mix it up and pour it over the vegetables? And what vegetables? Peeled or not? Sliced or not?
Finally I decided to start simple, with the classic pickled vegetable, cucumber. I took a shortcut by buying a ready-made pickling spice mixture. (It’s got mustard seed, coriander, bay leaves, dill seed, ginger, cinnamon, and — well, I’m not going to let the Spice Cargo company write my article for me.) And I started pickling.
- 1 long English cucumber
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon pickling spice (see above, or make up your own)
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt*
- Get a clean glass jar with a lid. Wash the cucumber and cut it into lengths that will fit into the jar (there’ll be about three).
- Then cut the lengths into four spears each. Stand them up in the jar.
- Heat all the other ingredients over a medium flame, stirring constantly, till the salt and sugar dissolve.
- Pour the liquid into the jar over the cucumber spears. Don’t worry if a little bit of them sticks out of the liquid.
- Let the whole thing cool for a few minutes, then put the lid on the jar and refrigerate it overnight.
- These are just as tasty as commercial pickles and much crisper.
- My taste tester called them “like bread and butter pickles, without the killer sweetness.” (In fact, they’re pretty acidic for the first day or so — you may want to wait two days, or try eating them with crackers to even out the taste.)
- As for how long they keep, I’ve read everything from one week to three — keep it at the low end to be on the safe side.
- *If you happen to see pickling salt and wonder if you should be using that, the short answer is no, you don’t have to.