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BARB FORD: Start with fresh cucumbers from garden when canning pickles

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Homemade refrigerator pickles. Photo courtesy of Barb Ford

If you are at all like me, you sometimes run across the problem of having too much of a good thing. In this summer of plenty, I have found myself contemplating just how to preserve the luscious produce available without having to set up a full-fledged canning operation.

I do have friends who think nothing of spending a hot day in the kitchen with jars and lids lined up, a pressure cooker and canning kettle steaming up the house.  For me, that’s just not an option. For one thing, it’s just plain too hot. Second, I am not the easy way gourmet for nothing—I am too lazy. Finally, I don’t have time or the inclination to do that much work and risk getting burned in the process.

But I do have friends who are farmers, dropping off bags of cucumbers and piles of dill at my door. My solution? Use up a bunch of garden fresh cucumbers (and maybe some onions and peppers too.) Make a batch of refrigerator pickles!
A simple, fast to finish project, making refrigerator pickles is a great way to preserve the harvest and become a hero.

What you really need are some clean jars (I sterilize mine on the high heat setting in the dishwasher,) a bunch of fresh cucumbers, vinegar and spices. Everything else is optional — you can use sugar to make sweet pickles, onions and peppers to make more of a pickle mix. You could add hot peppers to the mix and make spicy hot pickle, or even pickled peppers. I know some folks who make pickled apples and pears with the same methods just different spices.

With a little experimentation, you can perfect your own signature recipe which friends will welcome as a prized part of the summer season.

Recall, however, this project is meant to be using up fresh produce you have. It should save you money and time, not cost you too much. So my advice is to be creative both with the jars you use and the ingredients.

Unless you already have a famous recipe for pickles that use pre-pickled products, start with fresh cucumbers from the garden. I have one dear friend who is well known for his special hot and sweet pickles, but he starts the whole process with a gallon of premade dill pickle slices. While I love his pickles, this defeats my purpose of preserving produce the easy way.

My favorite pickle is garlic dill, so the recipe below uses both. Right now, you can hit the garden or the farmers market to get fresh dill bunches, garlic and cucumbers. It is a perfect way to start the journey into refrigerator pickling — while they have to cure in the refrigerator for a few days, the whole preparation takes less than twenty minutes from start to finish!

You can change this recipe to fit your tastes, adding more sugar for sweetness, hot peppers for spice, even onions and bell pepper slices for variety. If you want to make fruit pickles, you can use apples or pears, cider vinegar, cinnamon, ginger and cloves for a nice refrigerator sweet pickle.

Homemade Refrigerator Pickles

• 1 cup distilled white vinegar
• 3 cups water
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• 1 tablespoon pickling spices
• 4 cups cucumber spears
• 2 cloves garlic, cut into big slices
• 1 large bunch of dill, roughly chopped with big stems removed

First, combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a medium sized glass bowl. Microwave this mixture for 3-4 minutes, until you see that the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has reached a bit of a boil.

Remove it from the microwave and put it into the refrigerator to cool. Arrange the pickling spices, dill, garlic and cucumber slices in sterilized glass jars. Divide the cooled vinegar solution among the jars, pouring it over the cucumbers until they are completely covered. Seal the jars tightly and put them in the refrigerator for at least three days.



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barb ford, easy way, gourmet, homemade, pickles, refrigerator
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