Refrigerator pickles recipe, and a pickle memory

Refrigerator Pickles

Refrigerator pickles, September 2013

This summer was my first time making pickles. It was necessary; cucumbers kept arriving each week in our CSA (community-supported agriculture) delivery. I usually keep a jar of pickles on hand anyway to put in tuna or chicken salad or homemade tartar sauce. So pickling seemed like the best way to keep them from going to waste and refrigerator pickles an easy option.

Now for my personal refrigerator pickle story: When I was eight months pregnant with our son (born thirty years ago this year), one evening I spied an unopened jar of Claussen refrigerator pickles toward the back of our refrigerator. I ate one, then another, and before I knew it the jar was empty. In one sitting.

Eileen 1983

Maternity fashion of the 80s concealed the bump at all cost. Although the dress was hideous and the huge glasses look ridiculous now, I do wish I  still had the shoes—and the hair color.

Claussen pickles are very good, but these were the best pickles I ever did—or probably ever will—eat. Based on my experience, I would call the “myth” of pregnancy food cravings confirmed.

My first homemade refrigerator pickles weren’t quite as good as my memory of those Claussens, but they were tangy, bright-tasting, and nicely crunchy. Also included here are the pickling spices I mixed, but you can use any purchased pickling spice mix or combination of your choosing.

I used part regular white vinegar and part white balsamic vinegar. The balsamic vinegar adds a little more sweetness than you’d get from regular vinegar. Alessi brand, which is available where I shop, is good.

I found a couple of canning materials helpful: For easy opening and re-closing, one-piece Ball brand plastic lids are great—they’re white and shiny and screw on and off easily. You can save the two-part metal lids that came with the jars for heat processing. I also like dissolvable labels. They’re cute as can be, and they come off with little scrubbing when you wash the jar.

Pickling Spices
Recipe type: Spice
Prep time:
Total time:
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon stick (about 1/2 stick; grind in clean coffee grinder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaf (3-4 leaves; grind in coffee grinder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon green peppercorns
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  1. Place ingredients in a spice bottle.
  2. Shake to combine.

Refrigerator Pickles
Recipe type: Condiment
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 24
  • 2 wide-mouth pint-sized canning jars with lids
  • 6 small to medium cucumbers (about 1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon plus 2 teaspoons pickling, kosher, or sea salt (not iodized salt)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic or white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1 thin slice ginger root, chopped (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and halved
  • 1 head dill weed or 2 teaspoons dill seed
  • 1 grape leaf, halved, or two small grape leaves (optional; for crisper pickles)
  1. Scrub cucumbers. Cut them the way you like them: halves, spears, or thick or thin rounds.
  2. For crisper pickles: Draw out moisture by placing cucumbers in a bowl and tossing with 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with a dish towel and allow to rest for 2 hours. Rinse and drain.
  3. Mix the brine: In a bowl or pitcher, place 2 teaspoons salt, 2 cups water, and the vinegars. Stir until salt is dissolved.
  4. Arrange cucumbers in canning jars. Into each jar sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice and half of the chopped ginger root. Tuck in between or place on top of cucumbers 1/2 clove smashed garlic and 1 head dill weed or 1 teaspoon dill seed. Tuck grape leaf along the inside of jar.
  5. Pour equal amounts of brine into each jar, enough to cover. Add more water if necessary.
  6. Screw on lid, label jar, and store in refrigerator. Pickles can be eaten in 1 day, but are best after 5 days. Use within about 3 months.
Serving size: 1 spear. Calories: 3; Carbohydrates: 1g. Sodium: 51mg;


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