Thursday, August 25, 2016

Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles

Very few ingredients are needed to make delicious pickles!
I love my garden.  Even in years like this one when many of my plants aren't doing great, and the new varieties I'm trying to grow haven't been successful, I still enjoy spending time there.  Our elderly neighbor Barb was someone who could completely relate to my love of fresh veggies and homemade food.  I've never seen anyone love a radish as much as that woman! That's one of the reasons it was so sad when she passed away this past winter.  I used to share my harvest with her. So this summer just hasn't been quite the same.  

I decided to make the pickle "chips" this time and cut the cucumbers
 into coins.  These are great for putting on burgers.
I don't have the same feeling of joy I used to have when I found the perfect pepper knowing she would be sharing in the bounty, or appreciating the wonder that is a freshly picked sugar snap pea still damp from the morning dew.  In some ways though, I appreciate it even more.  I know how much it meant to her, how much she loved it.   And how amazingly lucky am I to have the opportunity to have the miracle that is a garden?  

One of Barb's favorite things (aside from radishes!) were my Garlic Dill refrigerator pickles.  I still have her handwritten note that she stuffed into one of the empty jars she returned to me where she told me that these were the best pickles she'd ever had.  The plastic bag hanging on the back handle of the screen door as if to say, "more please".  Man, I am going to miss that sweet lady.  I will never forget her, and now every time I make these pickles I think of Barb and her love of nature and gardening.  

I add extra garlic cloves that are delicious served with
the pickles as a garnish on meat and cheese boards
I've tweaked this recipe a bit since I started making them a few years ago.  It's flexibility is one of the things I love so much about it.  When I made them for Barb, I went easy on the heat and just used a few slices of jalapeños so it wasn't overpowering.  For my husband and I, some of the batches are super fiery.  It all depends on what you like and the mood you're in.  If you have fresh dill on hand then by all means use that.  I've even done a combination of the dried and fresh. Honestly, it's pretty hard to mess these babies up.  

The first thing you do is wash and slice the cucumbers. You can cut them in traditional spears or into coins.  Barb taught me a great tip - - you have to cut off the blossom end of the cucumber (opposite of the stem) to ensure you get crisp and crunchy pickles.  The enzymes in the blossom can lead to soggy pickles.  In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a simmer. 

Arrange the cleaned and dried jars on the counter and dole out the spices and garlic to each. Pack the cucumber slices firmly into the jars. You don't want to damage the cucumbers, but you do want them packed tight.  I like to transfer the hot brine to a measuring cup that has a pour spout.  Then pour the brine into the jar, leaving approximately ½ inch headspace.  Pour slowly so the liquid has time to seep down into the nooks and crannies of the jar. Tap jars gently on countertop to dislodge any trapped air bubbles.  Apply lids and let jars cool on the counter. 

You can see how tightly I layer in the slices in
this picture.  You want to fit as many as you can
without crushing them.  
When they've returned to room temperature, turn them over carefully to distribute the spices and place the jars in refrigerator. Let them sit for at least 48 hours before eating (if you can resist!) Because these aren't preserved or boiled they must stay in refrigeration at all times.  I use this same recipe for pickled Jalapeños and Serrano peppers.  I  leave out the red pepper flake when making those so the flavor of the hot peppers can stand on their own.   

These pickles have always been one of my favorite things to make and now they will forever be tied in my heart to my special neighbor.  This one's for you Barb!  

Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles
(Makes 3 pints)
2 pounds Kirby cucumbers
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp pickling salt (If you use Kosher use heaping Tbsps)
6 - 8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half if very large (2-3 per jar)
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper (divided equally)
3 tsp dill seed (divided equally) or use fresh dill
1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns (divided equally)
1 jalapeño or serrano, sliced (optional)

The delicious finished product after the brine has been added and the lids applied.
I use both the traditional screw top jars as well as the Weck jars with the metal clips.  

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