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Quick and Garlicky Refrigerator Pickles


THE CHALLENGE
To create a go-to pickle recipe. One that I can look forward to revisiting all winter.

THE SOLUTION
Quick and garlicky refrigerator pickles. This year my own pickling cucumber plants gave me enough fruit for about six pints of my grampa’s dill pickles. They’re a basic fresh-pack sliced pickle with garlic and plenty of salt. I typically eat them in peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. (What? Try it before you judge.) Between my backyard yield and the fresh, crispy cukes available in farm shares and at local farmers markets, I'll have plenty of raw materials to see me through the rest of summer.

THE PROCESS
This time I was looking for a quick pickle that had a bit of spice and plenty of garlic—perfect for snacking—but couldn’t find a recipe that hit the nail on the head. So I started researching and piecing together my own recipe to try.

I chose to make my own pickling spice, based on the recipe below, because, well, it’s always nice to know what, exactly, is in your pickles. Plus, it’s fun to customize. I omitted the mace and the cinnamon, and since the flavor of allspice berries can be pretty overwhelming, I may choose to forgo them for the next batch.

There’s nothing worse than a mushy pickle, so I followed the advice of pickle queen Marisa McClellan and:

1. Trimmed the blossom end of the cucumber. The blossom end contains an enzyme that breaks down the crispiness of a pickle.
2. Stuffed a grape leaf or two into the bottom of each jar. The tannins from grape (and cherry) leaves “encourage crispness.”
3. Considered adding alum, which always makes me think of Bugs Bunny cartoons but is what some folks recommend for achieving a good, firm pickle. I’m not so sure about the safety and purity of alum, though, so I’ve elected to go without it.

I’m a big fan of the tang that you get from apple cider vinegar, so that part of this recipe was a winner. It’s also a quick and easy refrigerator pickle, which appeals to my laziness this summer.

I have to say, this makes one tasty pickle—the kind of pickle you think about all the way home from work, like a handsome suitor, reminding you of its charming garlicky demeanor and crispy, confident snap. A stand-over-the-kitchen-sink crunchy snack.

THE INGREDIENTS
Makes approximately four quarts

4 lbs pickling cucumbers, washed and blossom-end trimmed, cut into spears
5 C water
4 C apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s)
1 C sugar (I use organic unbleached sugar)
6-8 large cloves of garlic, smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
3 T pickling spice
4 T pickling salt (or pure kosher salt without caking agents)
8 clean, fresh grape leaves (I plucked mine from a trusted neighbor’s shade arbor)

THE DIRECTIONS
Stuff two grape leaves each into four prepared quart jars, then follow with the cucumber spears. Heat the water, vinegar, sugar, garlic, pickling spice, and salt over medium heat until just boiling. Let simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, then pour the brine over the cucumbers, making sure they are covered by the liquid. Place the prepared lids and rings onto the jars and let cool completely. Store in the refrigerator. They taste pretty good immediately but really pack a wallop after one week.

STILL HUNGRY? Browse the CSA Cookoff recipe file.

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