ICEBOX DILL PICKLES (no canning required)

The month of August before I have to go back to my classroom to work is a time of reflection. For me, it means jotting down notes in my journal about how the gardening season has gone. While I still have a couple months of harvesting, selling vegetables and flowers at the Skandia Farmers Market, and food preservation for our family – it is important to chart the lessons that I learned this summer so I can improve on them next year. I make sure to document the seeds I purchased that I will buy again next year and planting and harvest times.

This year we added a new pumpkin patch by moving our pig pen. Their new pen is right next to the old one. Not only do the pigs have more shade now, but when I water my pumpkins on hot days the sprinkler reaches their new digs and they can enjoy the cold water too. My husband created a couple new flower beds for my blooms and, if everything goes as planned, next month we will be planting 1,000 tulip bulbs and a couple hundred more daffodils. While I always hate to say goodbye to summer, it is comforting to know that plans are already in the works for next year. 

This year my cucumbers have been thriving. It felt like they took forever, but my first week of harvesting for the market resulted in sixty pounds of pickling cucumbers. I make sure to pick them small for maximum crispness. All year I asked people if they would be making pickles. While there seems to be a strong interest in making pickles, many people are intimidated by the canning process. In addition, some may like pickles but their family does not, so they do not need a large batch. Or quite simply, they do not have enough time to can pickles. Therefore, I have been recommending Icebox, or refrigerator pickles. Not only do they come together easily without any canning equipment, but the ones that I made last summer kept for a year. 

Basically, you can make refrigerator pickles in any jar as long as it has a tight fitting lid. I have a one gallon jar that I use, along with multiple other larger pickle jars I have collected over the years. Make sure that they are cleaned out well and sanitized. You can boil them in a pot of water or use the sanitize cycle on your dishwasher. Once your jars are ready you pack them with ingredients, ladle in the brine, and put the covers on. My mom recommends letting them sit on the counter for 2 or 3 days, to expedite the process, before moving them to the refrigerator. The pickles should be ready within a couple weeks. 

Make sure you scrub the cucumbers well

ICEBOX DILL PICKLES
*Note – this is the same recipe for brine and ingredients that I would use if I was water bath canning the pickles.

BRINE
*2 Quarts of Water
*1 Quart of Apple Cider Vinegar
(some people use white vinegar, but my mom and I use apple cider vinegar because that’s what my grandma Puskala used)
*½ Cup of Canning Salt

You will also need:
*Dill (fresh and/or dill seed. I recommend fresh dill – but seed will work in a pinch).
*Pickling spice (I just started adding it this year per my mom’s recommendation)

Optional for spicy peppers
*Garlic cloves
*Crushed red peppers

*Fresh jalapenos 

Choose the shape of the pickles that you desire (chips, spears, whole, or thin sandwich slices). I prefer to use small, whole cucumbers, but I also like them sliced thinly for sandwiches and burgers.

Bring your brine to a boil and in the bottom of the jar place a generous helping of dill (stem and all), crushed garlic cloves (I put three per jar), a Tablespoon of pickling spice, and slices of jalapeno if you desire a spicy pickle. Then pack the rest of the jar with cucumbers. Some people put the pickling spice in the brine as it boils. Sometimes I like to add thin slices of carrots, onions, and even celery to the pickles. 

Once the cucumbers are firmly packed, fill the jar with the boiling brine, leaving about ¾ inch of head room at the top. Put on a tight fitting lid. Let sit on your counter for a couple of days, or place directly into the refrigerator after they have cooled. If you are only making a jar or two and find that you have leftover brine, you can store it in the refrigerator. 

My mom grows a couple of cucumber plants and she said that Icebox Pickles are convenient for her because she makes them in small batches as her cucumbers grow. I love this idea! Incidentally, my mom knows pickles. When I was growing up she was known to can over 100 quarts of dill pickles. My mom’s recommendation for perfect pickles is always a copious amount of dill.To me there is no better smell than when your kitchen is filled with the fragrance of vinegar brine and dill. I believe that food made with love, and attention to detail, tastes better. August and September is the perfect time to make pickles and you should find a bounty of cucumbers right now at the local farmers markets. I know that I will have a large supply in Skandia. Come and stop by!


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