The Ancient Art of Pickling.
Ever wondered how to get the magical, crisp delicious crunch from a pickle? The secret is ‘refrigerator pickles.’
The year is 2030 B.C. and and cucumbers brought from their native India are beginning a tradition of
Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Amerigo Vespucci, Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare, Napoleon, and countless others touted the health benefits and delicious tastes of pickled foods. With much to like about pickles, it is easy to see why pickles are so popular. Crunchy, garlicky, spicy, dilly, or any way that suits you, a pickle is more than just a condiment.
As early as the 15th century, pickled foods, namely vegetables, were used by explorers on long voyages at sea. With lack of proper nutrition and access to healthy, (unspoiled) food, pickled veggies were a welcomed solution and were brought along on voyages by the barrel-full. Pickled food was new technology that was saving lives of many by preventing scurvy, malnutrition, and other diseases.
Perhaps one of the most influential contributions to modern culinary history was the invent of the water bath; the most common way pickles are made today. In the 19th century:
Napoleon valued pickles as a health asset for his armies, so much so that he offered the equivalent of $250,000 to anyone who could develop a way to preserve food safely. The man who won the prize in 1809 was a confectioner named Nicholas Appert, who figured out that if you removed the air from a bottle and boiled it, the food wouldn’t spoil. He’d have to wait for Pasteur to describe why by making the bottle airtight, no microorganisms could enter, and by boiling it, any microorganisms that existed were killed. Known today as the “boiling water bath,” Appert’s discovery was one of the most influential culinary contributions in history.
Minimal Effort. Natural Process.
Today, I give a recipe that demands no boiling water bath. It requires no pressure cooker, minimal effort, is completely safe; delicious, frugal, and a fun way to preserve food. You can do this as a fun project with your kids, or if you’re like me, you can challenge your Dear Husband to a pickle-off, (our equivalent to a chili cook-off), to see who will be the pickle master of your house. With this refrigerator pickle recipe, I am the clear front-runner pickle-winner, and his water bath pickles of yesteryear ain’t got nothin’ on my refrigerator pickles.
The method is simple, (or else I wouldn’t do it), and all you do is prep your ingredients, boil your brine, cool, add the lid, and pop it in the fridge.
And then you wait…
ONLY THREE DAYS! I struggled with this and waited probably 8 hours, and they were still amazing.
That was two weeks ago now, and they are even better.
What You Need:
- Cucumbers or veggies to pickle. Green beans, cauliflower, carrots, okra, garlic, peppers, and zucchini are all great choices. The amount you make is entirely up to you. One quart full or 4, whatever your fridge can support. In a traditional foods household, fridge space is at a premium, so I can’t put up as much at once as I’d like. But, since these pickles are so easy to make, it’s really not a problem for us.
- A good pickling spice. I make my own, which is extremely cost effective since I can buy my ingredients in bulk, and I appreciate that I can completely control the flavor of my pickles.
- Fresh dill, garlic, hot peppers, or any other add-ins you may want to flavor your pickles.
- Vinegar of your choice, (I used apple cider vinegar
), water and sea salt for your brine. Just don’t use iodized salt because that’s what makes pickled food cloudy. Sea salt, pickling salt and kosher salt are all fine choices.
- Mason jars with plastic lids
. If you can’t get the plastic lids, use plastic wrap as a barrier between your pickles and your lid. Vinegar will corrode your lid over time, making your bounty inedible.
The method is simple…
First prepare your brine:
On the stove top in a small pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a slight boil. Let it steep a bit and strain out whole spices if desired. (I don’t). This is the basic recipe I use for my brine. Double, or triple the recipe, as needed for larger amounts of pickles. This amount of brine filled 3 quarts packed full of cukes with probably a half-quart worth of brine left over.
Next, In clean mason jars, place your dill, a few generous sprigs in each, and garlic and peppers if using them. Pack your jars nice and tight with your chopped cukes and/or veggies. Pour your brine over the top and allow to cool a bit. Cap with a lid and place in the fridge. The pickles will be ready to eat after about three days, and the flavor will improve over time. They will keep in the fridge for about 6 months or so; I doubt they last that long 🙂
What about you? Do you make refrigerator pickles? Do you have a favorite pickle recipe to share?
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*The pickle history listed above comes from the fine folks at the NY Food Museum
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Shared with: Tuned-In Tuesday