This is the third summer Hubby and I have been growing our own lettuce and vegetables, and each year we’ve had a different “champion of the garden.”
The first year it was lettuce. We ate fresh salads daily, and also gave away bags of it. Let me tell you, once you’ve eaten a salad from lettuce you grew yourself, that was in the ground mere minutes before, bagged lettuce is ruined for you forever.
The second year it was “Little Prince” eggplants. These 3- to 4-inch, dark purple beauties grew abundantly like giant purple grapes. We’d simply slice them in half and throw them on the grill with olive oil, salt and pepper. Hubby had never cared for eggplant before, but these converted him.
This year it’s been cucumbers. Loads and loads of cucumbers. Which is why, out of sheer desperation, I learned how to make refrigerator dill pickles.
It turns out they are ridiculously quick and easy to make. If I had an extra cucumber, I could wash it, slice it, mix up the brine and get it all in a jar in about the same amount of time as it takes to brew a pot of coffee.
They’re also delicious. Not everyone cares for pickles, but my friends who do loved them. They’re just so darn fresh.
I also like that I can cut the cucumbers into any shape I desire, and in the length that fits the jars I have on hand. I mostly cut them lengthwise into spears, but I cut one especially large cucumber into wide flat “planks” that were delightful in a ham sandwich (on gluten-free bread, of course).
The only downside is, because they aren’t preserved, refrigerator pickles have to be eaten within six weeks. So far that hasn’t been an issue, because they’re so fresh and tasty they get scarfed up. However I do put the “Eat by” date on the lid, just in case.
My super-simple recipe is below. Keep reading after that though, because there are two bonuses: a link to the wonderful chickpea cucumber salad recipe Hubby and I used for any cucumbers that weren’t pickled, and a trick to remove label glue easily from jars so they can be re-used for your pickles.
Recipe: Refrigerator dill pickles
This makes 1 pint of pickle brine. The number of cucumbers you use will vary depending on their size. In the above photo the large jar contains one large cucumber, the two smaller jars each contain half of a medium cucumber, and I divided 1 pint of brine among the three jars, with a little left over.
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- Cucumbers, washed and with ends sliced off
- 2 fresh dill heads per cucumber, washed
- 2 garlic cloves per cucumber, peeled (optional)
Cut cucumbers into desired shapes, and place in jars with appropriate amount of fresh dill heads (and, optionally, garlic cloves).
Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt. I use warm tap water to help the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour into jar, screw on tops and place in refrigerator.
After they’ve been in the refrigerator at least 72 hours, you can start enjoying your fresh dill pickles!
Bonus 1: Chickpea cucumber salad recipe
I discovered this recipe last year, when we were still using store-bought cucumbers (although we were able to get the mint and parsley from our garden). Everyone who’s tasted it loves it, and it’s a great salad to take to a summer potluck. There’s just something about the combination of the honey and the mint in the dressing. I think we’ve made at least eight batches of it this summer – I’ve lost count.
Bonus 2: How to easily remove label glue from jars
When I have an empty jar that’s attractively shaped and potentially useful, I hate to just throw it in the recycling, but I also hate to remove the labels, because the glue is so stubborn. More often than not after you get the label off, you’re faced with a sticky and disfiguring glue residue that just. Won’t. Budge.
I used to use nail-polish remover, but it’s is smelly and unpleasant, and then I feel like the jars need to go through the dishwasher again because I don’t want any trace of that in my food.
What I’ve found that works and is food-safe, because it uses food, is a paste made from equal parts vegetable oil and baking soda. Simply apply it to the glue residue, let it sit for half an hour or so, and then scrub it with a kitchen scrubbie. The oil dissolves the glue, and the baking soda forms the paste that keeps it in place, as well as acts as a gentle abrasive. I was amazed by how easily that glue came off.