We keep it simple here at GetCookingSimply. So when I was asked to teach a canning class for Sustainable Contra Costa County, I knew that refrigerator pickles were the answer to simple. My 93 year old dad makes them this way all the time! Traditional water bath canning is not so simple, but the difference is the jars are thoroughly vacuum sealed and can be kept on a pantry shelf. Refrigerator pickles must be kept refrigerated, and for as long as you like, though eventually will loose their crispness — so just eat them up soon and make some more!
You’ll need pickling cucumbers or Persian cucumbers, which you should find now at farmers markets, or year-round usually at Trader Joe’s. Pickling cucumbers and Persian cucumbers have a thin skin that the brine will penetrate easily, plus they make cute crisp little pickles. The important thing is that the skin not be waxed. For color and interest, add other veggies like green beans, carrots, pearl onions, red onion, garlic, and fresh herbs. My favorite pickling herb is tarragon, especially with green beans. At the Sustainable Contra Costa class, their garden had beautiful green and red okra. The gardener said pickled okra doesn’t have that typical slickery texture. Well, my results don’t concur, but the okra was crisp and tasty anyway. Give it a try if you like okra!
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Makes about six 1-pint jars.
Canning jars with two-part lids look nifty and traditional, but any food jar with a tight screw-top lid will work.
2-1/2 cups white vinegar
2-1/2 cups water*
3 tablespoons purchased pickling spice*
2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste for sweeter pickles
1 tablespoon salt – not iodized
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
2 lbs. pickling cucumbers, whole, cut lengthwise, or in chips
8-12 oz. green beans, trimmed
2-3 carrots, cut in thin strips
Pearl onions or garlic cloves, optional
- Place jars in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and use jars while still hot. If using two-piece canning lids, bring to a simmer in a separate pot for a few minutes; its best not boil the flat, rubber lined canning lids.
- Bring vinegar, water, pickling spices, salt and sugar to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low so brine stays hot.
- Remove jars from water and drain. Pack vegetables into jars, alternating a variety of ingredients for a pleasing appearance. Each jar can be a different combination — like green beans, garlic and tarragon; cucumber chips and red onion; or just plain pickled carrots. Have fun with it!
- Ladle hot brine with the spices into jars, filling to 1/4-inch from top. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth then screw tops on. Turn jars upside down for 5 minutes. Turn right side up and let stand undisturbed until cool. Lids probably will seal but should be refrigerated for safest storage. Refrigerate for 2 weeks for flavors to blend and fully pickle the vegetables. Store refrigerated for several months.
Some recipes use distilled water to prevent the brine from turning cloudy. I used tap water and the brine is crystal clear, but it might depend upon your water supply.
Pickling spice is sold in jars in the supermarket spice section or with canning supplies. Or make your own with a variety of whole spices such as mustard seeds, whole peppercorns, coriander seeds, dill seeds, allspice. The amounts do not need to be specific, but I used roughly equal parts of each.
If you taste the pickles after a few days and they are too vinegary, add a few teaspoons water or sugar to taste. The vegetables will absorb the new brine.