You guys, my garden cucumbers are doing so well! I was a little worried, because you might remember in my Life Lately post, I mentioned that they were getting some strange white spots on them. But, they seem to have made a comeback, and are popping out cucs like crazy! In just one day, I picked this entire basketful, and knew right away that canning pickles was in my immediate future, because there was no way we could eat this many cucumbers at once.
Coffee & Canning…
I got up early the morning after I picked all these, poured my coffee, and nibbled on one of my homemade Zucchini Peach Muffins as I gathered up my supplies.
Visiting the Past…
Recently, I brought home a box of my mom’s old canning supplies that I found in her basement as we’ve been going through the house, and I decided to use some of it for my pickle-making project.
Also, can I just pause a minute to talk about that vintage tea towel with garden veggies hand-embroidered on it? Look how beautiful it is.
This was another find from my parents’ house recently that just melts my heart. My sister and I discovered an entire plastic tote of vintage hand-embroidered tea towels. There was a note inside, in my mom’s handwriting, that said they were all made by her mother and her two grandmothers.
My sister and I divided them up, and each took some home. They were all pretty yellowed, and some were really stained, but I spent several hours one day working on them, and managed to get them almost new looking. I mean, look how white this one is! Based on my research, this Garden Sweet Pea pattern is from about 1960.
I have no idea if my grandmother made it, or one of my great-grandmothers, but it’s too lovely to just pack back away in a box for another 50 or more years. I loved having it out and using it lightly while I worked on my pickles. I mean, I didn’t do any heavy cleaning up with it, just dried my hands occasionally, but it was a happy connection to past generations (3, maybe even 4 generations!) of women in my family. 💕
I gave all my cucumbers a good rinse, and washed and dried my canning jars. I used pint-sized, wide-mouth Mason jars, which I bought for this purpose, because I wanted the larger tops to make it easier to get the pickles in and out. You could certainly use regular-mouth jars too, or even quart-sized…whatever you prefer.
Two Varieties of Cucumbers…
I have two varieties of cucumbers growing in my garden. This chunkier pickling variety I cut into spears.
And these long, narrow ones I sliced into rounds.
Fill the Jars…
I packed my cucs into the jars, along with sliced Vidalia onion, whole garlic cloves, and a generous amount of fresh dill.
You can adjust the amount of garlic you use to personal taste. The brine is going to have some garlic in it too, that will heat and infuse into the liquid, but if you like really zesty pickles, you can add extra whole cloves directly into the jar, too.
If you’re making more than one jar, try different variations. Mix it up! They don’t all have to be the same.
First, you might want to plan ahead if you decide to make pickles, as everyone’s garden cucumbers are ready to harvest right now, and apparently lots of people are making pickles! I got the last package of fresh dill (next year, I will be planting my own dill in my herb garden), and fresh, whole garlic bulbs were SOLD OUT.
So, I ended up buying a package of peeled, whole cloves, which was way more than I needed for these pickles.
But, did you know you can easily freeze whole garlic cloves? It’s great, because it keeps in your freezer for up to 6 months, and then you can just pop out a clove or two to dice up as needed when you’re cooking. Or, in this situation, as I harvest more cucs and want to make more pickles, I already have the garlic ready to go!
The garlic I didn’t need for pickles this time easily fit into a small jam jar. You want an air-tight, moisture resistant package. Just seal tightly and store in your freezer until needed.
The Pickling Brine
In a sauce pan, mix together the ingredients that will turn these cucumbers into the most delicious pickles you’ve ever had: apple cider vinegar, water, whole mustard seed, black peppercorns, pickling salt, sugar, garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes.
You can also buy pre-made pickling spice. Right now, most grocery stores have a section dedicated to canning, and you can find it there along with pickling salt. I have some pickling spice, but decided to use my own spice combination instead, to give me more flexibility.
Be sure that you do use pickling salt, or even kosher or sea salt for this, and not regular table salt. Table salt has anti-caking ingredients added to it that may interfere with the quality and crispness of your pickles. If you do use kosher or sea salt, just be sure you look on the package to make sure it is pure salt with no additives.
Line your jars up, so they are ready to fill with the brining liquid.
I used a wide funnel to give me a little extra leeway in pouring the liquid in. The green one my mom gave me at least 12 or more years ago when I tried my hand at canning tomatoes for the first time.
I still remember calling her on the phone at least 5 times during the process to ask questions. I was so proud to present her with some of my jars of tomatoes for her to use in her homemade chili, since she was no longer keeping a big garden of her own anymore. As I was making these pickles, I kept thinking about how much I’d like to take a jar to her.
Seal the jars tightly and store in the refrigerator. Since these are “refrigerator pickles” and not heat sealed in a canner or pressure cooker, they need to be stored in the fridge, but they will stay fresh and crisp for at least a couple of months. Plenty of time to extend your enjoyment of those fresh garden cucumbers!
Plus, since this process is so quick and easy, you can make these pickles in small batches, several times over during the harvest season as you pick your cucumbers, which will give you fresh pickles to last for quite some time.
Easy Refrigerator Pickles
- 2 or 3 pickling cucumbers depending on size
- ¼ of a Vidalia onion thinly sliced
- 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh dill
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 3 cloves garlic slightly smashed
- 1½ tsp pickling salt or kosher salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- ¼ whole black peppercorns
- ¼ tsp whole mustard seed
- crushed red pepper flakes to taste (I used about ¼ tsp)
- Pack your sliced cucumbers, onion slices, and dill sprigs into a clean, pint-sized Mason jar. Leave about a 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar for the brining liquid.
- In a small pot, heat the vinegar, water, garlic, mustard seed, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, sugar and salt. Allow to simmer gently for about 10 minutes to allow sugar and salt to dissolve and spices to infuse the vinegar.
- Allow the brine to cool, but still be warm. Then, fill the jar enough to cover everything with brine.
- Close the lid tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours before eating.
- This recipe is for 1 pint-sized jar. Multiply and adjust per number and size of jars desired. I made 6 jars at once for this post, so I multiplied the ingredients listed x6.
- Because these pickles are not heat sealed in a canner or pressure cooker, they need to remain refrigerated. They should last about 2 months in the fridge.
The smell of pickling brine simmering on my stove took me right back to my mom’s kitchen when I was a child, and she would spend all day canning things from her garden. Does that happen to you, too?
Smells seem to be very powerful connectors to memories for me. I can smell something, and it instantly transports me to a certain place and time. I’m sure the scent of this spicy pickling brine is one I have not smelled since way back then. Suddenly I could just picture my mom, standing in her big kitchen, a tea towel tossed over her shoulder, jars lined up across her counter tops, and the big pressure-cooker canner rattling on the stove.
Canning these pickles, using some of her things, in some comforting way almost felt like spending time with my mom. 💔
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