When cucumbers first start to appear in the summer, it is blissful. After a fall and winter of heavy root vegetables, and a spring of greens, cucumbers are wonderfully light and refreshing. Plus, they usually come along with tomatoes, zucchinis, and other denizens of high summer. The problem with cucumbers is that they are pretty prolific and I have a hard time doing anything with them other than putting them in salads or on sandwiches.
Sure, I have a couple of Asian-style salads that cucumbers star in, but honestly, my repertoire is pretty limited. So when the cucumbers start to overwhelm our crisper drawer, I reach for my trusty refrigerator pickle recipe and make a big batch. The beauty of refrigerator pickles is that they are simple to make and because they are so acidic, they last a long time* in the fridge without the need for fancy canning. The best part is that in about 30 minutes, we can make enough pickles to last us most of the year. Which means we don’t ever have to buy them in the store.
This recipe is a modification of a recipe from Alton Brown. I love the original for its simplicity but I have tweaked it a bit for my tastes. Namely, I switched up the vinegars a little and cut the sugar in half because I like my pickles less sweet and more sour. However, if you wanted more of a sweet-sour balance, feel free to increase the sugar.
Refrigerator Sour Pickles
Adapted from Alton Brown
6-8 pint-sized glass canning jars with lids
12 cucumbers (mix of all sizes), about 4 lbs.
1 medium onion
3 cups water
3 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbls kosher salt
1 tbls mustard seeds
3/4 tsp turmeric
2 tsp celery seeds
1 tbls pickling spice
1 tbls granulated garlic
Thoroughly wash the cucumbers and trim the ends. You can take the peels off (which I would do if I was using cucumbers that had been sprayed with pesticides) but leaving them on makes the pickle a bit crisper. Slice the cucumbers approximately 3/16 of an inch thick. Using a mandoline or food processor makes this job significantly easier and more consistent then doing it by hand with a knife. Slice the onion into half moons that are 1/16 of an inch thick. Set sliced cucumbers and onions aside.
To make the brine, combine the vinegars, water, sugar, and spices in a non-reactive saucepan large enough to hold everything. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for a full 4 minutes to allow the flavor of the spices to bloom.
Pack your cleaned and dried canning jars with the cucumber and onion. Pack them full, and don’t be afraid to push down to get as much air out as you can. Pour the warm brine over the cucumbers, filling the jars as full as you can without spilling everything when you put the lid on. Let the jars cool to room temperature, top off with extra brine as need, put the lids on and put them in the fridge.
Let them sit a couple of days before you dive in. Makes 6-8 pints of pickles, depending on how much cucumber and onion you use and how tightly you pack your jars.
*Public Service Announcement: The recipe says that these keep for a month or so in the fridge. However, we have kept them for longer than 6 months and still had them come out tasting fine. So, feel free to keep them longer if you like, just use common sense (you know, throw away any jars that get moldy or appear discolored or cloudy) and don’t blame us if something goes wrong.