This is another recipe that I’m moving over from my old blog, because everyone loves it so much. It is one of my most linked recipes, and one that ends up in CSA newsletters year after year. Not that I can blame anyone who is a fan of them, because these pickles are incredible easy to make and stunningly delicious. As is the case with my Bread and Butter Pickles, these are not canned. I just can’t bring myself to bother with canned pickles, because we find them to be mushy and lacking in bright flavor – that is not an issue with Refrigerator Garlic Dill Pickles.
Rather, these pickles are, once they have a chance to ferment for a couple days, kept in the refrigerator, where they stay fresh and safe to eat for months. We opened our final jar from last fall in March this year and if anything, time had only improved them. They were crunchy, garlicky and fabulous. Canning actually cooks the cucumbers in the process of preserving them, and cooked pickles become soft and lose a lot of their summery flavor. I just don’t see the point of making pickles at all if they aren’t going to be better than what I can buy in the store.
Because you aren’t canning, these are super easy to make. The brine uses just a few common ingredients, along with some fresh garlic cloves and dill, both of which are very easy to find this time of year. I can get a batch of these finished up in about 30 minutes, and then all we have to do is sit back and wait for the magic to happen.
It is important to use good, fresh cucumbers. If you can find the little pickling kind, all the better. In fact, large cucumbers are not that useful, period, as far as I am concerned, because the seeds get big and kind of bitter, and the flesh gets more and more starchy as they get bigger. I do make these with regular slicing cukes if that is all I have, but today, we have a nice big bowl of picklers to use. Nice and bumpy, which is an indication that they were picked at the right time. Fresh dill will make the best pickles, but you can use use a combination of dried dill and dill seed if that is all you can get your hands on. I think it’s pretty easy to find fresh dill right now though – they even have it in the supermarkets around us right now. You definitely want to use fresh garlic cloves, and then if you like, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a few black peppercorns and little mustard seed to round out the flavors.
This recipe can be cut in half, doubled, tripled or octupled, so long as you have the space to store them. I guess this is where I admit that we keep our old fridge in Larry’s shop for pickle storage – we may be just a tad fond of pickles, so we need a lot of space for them. We do move them into the house fridge once it gets consistently down below freezing outside though, because the fridge doesn’t do so well when it gets that cold. Now that I have discovered naturally fermented vegetables, which can be made year round [you will be hearing more about this as we get into the fall], I’m not sure we will need so many pickles, but only time will tell.
Because these pickles aren’t going to be canned, and we don’t have to worry about getting anything up to a certain temperature, we can mix up our sizes of cucumbers and how we cut them. I cut some in nice long spears, and one jarful in chunks. I also usually do a batch of chips/thin slices, and I have even grated them to make a relish and they all work really nicely – and stay crunchy and crisp. And while I do use canning jars, because I have a lot of those hanging around, you can use whatever jars you have. These aren’t going to seal up, and will kept in the fridge after the first two days, so you don’t need to have any special sort of jar. They need to be really clean, but sterilization isn’t necessary either – I usually run mine through the dishwasher and call it good.
- 2 quarts of water
- 1 cup white or cider vinegar
- ½ cup pickling salt
- About 3 to 4 pounds of cucumbers - small pickling cukes are best
- 8 large heads of dill, or more if they are smaller
- 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1 tablespoon mustard seed
- 4 pinches red pepper flake
- about 20 black peppercorns
- This will make about 4 quarts of pickles, so you need 4 1 quart jars with lids, or more if they are smaller. Canning jars aren't necessary, but they do need a lid. Wash in hot soapy water and rinse well [or run through the dishwasher].
- Measure the water, vinegar and salt into a 3 quart sauce pan and set over high heat - you want the salt to dissolve and the mixture to come to a full boil.
- Meanwhile, make sure your cucumbers are good and clean. Cut them however you like - the smaller the pieces, the more that will fit in a jar. I like spears, because they are pretty to serve, though if I end up with a lot of odd sized cucumbers, chunks may work better.
- In the bottom of each jar, place 1 large head of dill, or several smaller ones. You can also put in some of the fronds and stems. Then put 1 garlic clove in the bottom.
- Fill each jar with cucumbers - for spears, it might be easier to lay the jar on its side. You can really cram them in there tightly, but leave a good inch of headspace at the top, so that the brine will be able to cover the pickles.
- Top the cucumbers in the jars with another clove of garlic, as well as another large head of dill. You can just leave it at that, or for a little more complexity of flavor, add a scant teaspoon of mustard seed, a pinch of red pepper flake and 5 peppercorns to each jar.
- Carefully fill each jar with the boiling water/vinegar/salt mixture, making sure to get the cucumbers completely covered.
- Screw on the lids.
- Leave the jars out in the counter for 2 or 3 days, and then store in the refrigerator for at least two weeks before opening them.
- They will keep well for several months at least, so long as you keep them refrigerated. [Naturally, if anything looks or smells funky, discard them, but honestly, that happens very rarely.]
When I was a kid in a large family, one of the things I promised myself was that when I grew up, I would eat as many dill pickles as I wanted. No one would be able to tell me I would make myself sick, nor would I have to politely share them with anyone else. Not all of my childhood dreams have come true, but I’m happy to say that this one did!
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