I grew up on homemade dill pickles that my dad made and fondly remember watching him remove the jars from their water bath to rest on the kitchen counter. Of course as a child I felt like the weeks they needed to cure were an eternity and personal punishment.
When I have space for a garden, I can my own using my father’s recipe that I found years after he had died (his secret ingredients were black peppercorns and grape leaves to keep the pickles firm). This season with no garden I have relied on the kindness of friends which inspired this batch of quick pickles, sometimes called refrigerator or barrel pickles.
No matter what you call them the premise is the same; submerge fresh cucumber slices in spices, water and cider vinegar and allow the vinegar to pickle them. Keeping them in the refrigerator simply reduces the risk of bacterial formation on the top of the liquid. Barrel pickles, most often found in old fashioned delis, had a lid on top that insured that the pickles stayed beneath the surface so any brine that floated to the top and got scummy could easily be skimmed off.
I made these two days ago and while I was hopeful that my spice mixture would produce a spicy garlickly pickle, so far it is simply a beautifully mellow sweetish one. I wonder how that will change in a week. Either way, experiment with whatever spices inspire you. I could see doing a more Indian curry version that would probably be fantastic (although definitely not kosher!)
Refrigerator Pickles (Makes 3 quarts)
5-6 large cucumbers, cut into even spears
9-12 cloves garlic, smashed
3 teaspoons black peppercorns
3 teaspoons red peppercorns
3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
6 red dried chilis (thai, serrano)
3 tablespoons dried dill (or 6 tablespoons fresh)
3 tablespoons salt
6 cups water
6 cups cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar, only substitution)
6 fresh grape leaves*
In three clean quart jars, divide the ingredients evenly except the water and vinegar. Pour 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vinegar into each jar. Add equal amounts of water and cider to each jar until full to 1 inch below the rim. Cover and refrigerate. You can begin eating them within a couple of days, but without grape leaves, they will go mushy after a couple of weeks (but I think there is little chance of them lasting that long!)
*Ironically I could not find wild growing grape leaves here in Ojai, which is silly since I’m in wine country). In Minnesota they twinned up phone poles everywhere, so it was not a problem. If you don’t know what they look like and don’t have someone who knows for sure, don’t pick what you don’t know!