Nights like last make me really wish I lived somewhere else. Why do I not live somewhere I can relax on my patio with two awesome girlfriends Jen and Mellissa, eating great food, drinking fun libations and discussing life for more than 5 months out of the year! Minnesota has a lot of character because of its very distinct four seasons…but I sure wish the majority were warm weather instead of cold. So to make winter a little brighter, I enjoy preserving summer’s bounty of fruits and vegetables so that I can still enjoy them even though they may not be handpicked from the garden that day. The vegetable platter you see above is a snippet of what I have been canning and fermenting this summer. During a cold snowy day when all I see looking out the window is white flakes and frozen patio chairs, I open up a jar of pickled beets, garlic scapes, cultured carrot sticks, pickles, cherry fruit butter….and I am brought back to summer in my mind.
These pickles are easy to make and require no canning. As you will see in many of my recipe posts, I enjoy putting spins on old classics, making them a little more unique and healthier. Let’s face it, many of us are self proclaimed foodies who want to expand our palettes in all sorts of ways including preserving! My idea is to bring out the natural flavor of the vegetables and spices, not cover them up with an over abundance of vinegar or sugar. Refrigerator pickles are easy to make, last about six months, and stay crunchier than ones water bath canned. You can also alter the vinegar, salt, and sugar (when making sweet pickles) ratios to your taste because they are not a processed, which need different properties for long term storage.
When making pickles, one thing I do to ensure crunchiness is to soak the cucumbers and onions in an ice bath for at least eight hours with some canning salt to extract all their water. The spices are different than the traditional dill pickle. The quality of spices you use is very important. Trust me, I had no idea how much of a difference it made until I started using Penzey’s Spices.The coriander adds a nice mild, elegant flavor, similar to a mix of lemon and sage. Instead of using just the traditional yellow mustard seed I added brown mustard seed for its spicy, distinctive taste that you find in Indian dishes. I wanted to add a little color to the pickles so adding the different peppers was just the answer, very aesthetically pleasing. Instead of just putting the spices in the bottom of each jar to be covered by the liquid, I added some to the brine while it boiling to infuse it with all the wonderful flavors!
(put into any size glass jars you want, i used quart sized)
4 lbs pickling cucumbers, sliced into coins
1 small yellow pepper, sliced
1 small red pepper, sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced into coins
5 c. filtered water
4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. + 2 t. canning salt
brown mustard seed
yellow mustard seed
black and red peppercorns
fresh dill weed
In a large container mix 2 T of salt with the cucumbers and onions. Pour very filtered cold water and ice cubes over the top, mix thoroughly. Let sit at least 8 hours or overnight in fridge to extract water from vegetables. Drain water from vegetables and rinse once with filtered water. Add 1 T of each spice and 2 cloves of garlic to sterilized jars, along with fresh dill weed (as much or as little as you like), then layer with cucumbers and peppers. Bring vinegar, water, 1/4 c. salt, 1 t. of each spice, and 4 garlic cloves to a boil for 3-5 minutes. Pour into each jar so brine covers vegetables by at least 1/2 inch. Let cool uncovered, and add small amounts of brine if vegetables have risen. (My trick to keeping veggies submerged is to cut two pieces of cucumber into sandwich like flat spears and place them underneath the lip of the jar so it acts as a seatbelt to the little coins. Works great!) Now comes the hard part….add covers, put into fridge and leave untouched for two to three days without sneaking a bite. After that, go pickle crazy!
*If you use smaller than 1 quart jars, like pint sized, use about 1 t. each spice in jars instead. Adjust accordingly to your taste!