Monday, June 18, 2012

WeekDAY Rations: Refrigerator picklefest!

A few weeks ago my boss brought part of his bumper crop of homegrown cucumbers in to work to give away. Apparently it was a good year for cucumbers in Destrehan.

I'm not the biggest fan of straight-up raw cucumber, but I don't dislike them in salads, doused in dressing, of course. I picked one up and took it home thinking I would probably just end up staring at it over the next few days, wondering how long I had to force myself to eat it before it went bad.

Then it hit me... DUH! Make some pickles out of that thing!!

And as much as I find Pinterest bad for my obsessive-compulsive personality, the glorified bookmarking site was of course the easiest place to go to find a decent refrigerator pickle recipe.

Spearing cucumbers... muhahaha!
I resolved to make the pickles. But before I could, I ended up finding kosher dill pickle mix in Lowe's, of all places... Apparently mason jars, canning supplies, pectin and other mixes are an appropriate upsale in the garden department. They must figure that by now all those folks who bought vegetable seeds and plants from them in early spring are looking for things to do with their produce... You know, if the plants survived and all.

So I gathered enough extra cukes (since we're so close now, I can call cucumbers by their nickname) to make two 32-ounce mason jars worth of pickle spears – one using the pickle mix powder and the other using the homemade 'use-whatever-spices-you-have-in-your-pantry' recipe from Pinterest.
In a week you'll be edible... :)
Both are done pretty much the same way: You boil the specified amount of water, vinegar and salt (kosher, obviously), just enough so that the salt is dissolved. With the mix, you place the contents of the bag into the brine while it's cooking. With the homemade version, you simply stuff and/or pour whatever fresh or dried herbs you desire into the jar with the speared pickles.

The last step is to pour the hot brine over the jar, filling it almost to the top. Then simply screw the lid on, place the jar in the fridge and wait.

These pickles were sour. So much so that you had to watch the placement of the back of your throat while eating them. That's the best way I can describe it. Eat one of these babies the wrong way, and they had the potential to make your mouth burn. Not in a 'spice' kind of way but in a 'wow-that-was-acidic' kind of way. 

That being said, they were also delicious. I did find that the pickles that sat in the store-bought mix solution stayed a little crispier. The secret ingredient for this purpose is apparently calcium chloride. But the homemade pickles were just as tasty and offered a little bit of a different flavor thanks to the interesting amalgamation of herbs I packed inside the jar (including fresh dill, Italian seasoning, cumin, garlic powder and black peppercorns).

Did I add enough spice?
Check back on Sunday to find out!
Those first two jars having been decimated over the last couple weeks alongside grilled cheese sandwiches, I decided to make more. (After all, I did buy a dozen of those big mason jars...) This time the suspects also included some cukes from my dad's garden in Hahnville. 

I went with a different recipe this time; which can be found here. (Thanks, Google.)

I subbed the dry spices and peppercorns with a half tablespoon each of pickling spice (found at WalMart), garlic powder and fresh dill. I also omitted some ingredients I didn't have, like the serrano peppers and fresh garlic.

The most important thing with these recipes is the ratio of salt to vinegar to water, obviously. Note that if you have to use table salt instead of coarser kosher salt; be sure to cut the amount used in half.

Check back on Sunday when I crack open my latest experimental batch. (And yes, you must let the cucumbers marinate at LEAST seven days, no cheating!)

PRO TIP: To avoid poisoning yourself – no joke – consume refrigerator pickles within three months.


  1. I love pickles! Nathan's (of hot dog fame) makes a sweet horseradish pickle - sweet and HOT! I have my grandma's bread & butter pickle recipe, but I've never made it. Scared it won't taste like hers....and they were so good (especially with red beans & rice!) I'm enjoying your posts! ~Kim~

  2. Oh man, I wish I could like bread and butter pickles. Maybe I should try them again. They're one of those things I tried as a kid, didn't like, and resolved to never touch in the future. Or MAYBE if I make some at home and am able to adjust the sweetness? Hmm!

    Thanks for reading!!