I will never buy pickles from the grocery store ever again.
I’ve seen the light.
I’ve tasted victory.
Why didn’t I figure this out sooner?
When I remember the summer of 2013, it will be the Summer of the Pickle!
My grandfather planted a beautiful garden in his backyard this spring. We’ve been reaping the benefits of his hard work all season and I couldn’t be more thankful. My house doesn’t allow for a garden, so when he emailed and asked, “what would you like me to plant?”, I sent him a list that probably took him by surprise.
At the top of that list were English cucumbers. A thinner skin, sweeter taste, and fewer seeds, English cucumbers are a much better eating experience than the ‘ole standard cucumber. While not an issue when grown in the backyard, when bought at the store, English cucumbers typically come without the layer of wax found on regular cucumbers. And they’re prettier. For what that’s worth!
Grandpa’s harvest has been good, which means we’ve had English cucumbers out the wazoo. A girl can only eat so many before she starts daydreaming about getting rid of cucumbers. So I asked my three-year-old sous chef, and pickle aficionado, if she’d like to spend a Saturday making pickles. She was delighted at the invitation and we set to slicing a heaping pile of cucs.
These pickles surprised me for a few reasons. First, it was the first time to attempt this particular culinary endeavor. It was easy. I mean, in, out, finito! I couldn’t believe how quickly the whole process was. Second, and most important, they were amazing! I swear I’ve never eaten a pickle so fine.
My pickles start with white wine vinegar (which you’re going to boil and your house is going to STINK, but it is more than worth the sacrifice!). I add brown sugar, crushed garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, fresh dill, mustard and coriander seeds, and a bay leaf.
Did I mention that my pickles don’t glow in the dark? An added bonus with any food, really. I mean, have you looked at a jar of pickles? What is that color? If it’s Vlasic, it’s yellow number 5. Theirs also have corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. The label has no mention of fresh herbs or spices, but they do at least use real cucumbers.
You’ll want to eat these pickles immediately – and you can! That’s a perk of “refrigerator pickles.” I like to let mine sit for a couple of days in the ‘fridge before snacking on them. And putting on turkey burgers. And sandwiches. And snacking on them!
2 large or 3 medium English cucumbers
2-3 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp. crushed red peppers
2 tsp. mustard seeds or ground mustard seed
1 tsp. coriander seeds or ground mustard seed
1. Slice the cucumbers in 1/4″ thick chips. Toss with the dill and set aside in a heat-proof bowl.
2. In a small pot, bring the water and vinegar to boil over medium-high heat, then add the remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined and the sugar and salt dissolve.
3. Pour the liquid over the pickles. Stir or toss to evenly coat the cucumbers. Let sit until cool, then transfer to a jar or resealable container and refrigerate. Ready to serve as early as the next day and up to four weeks.
I’ve made four batches of these pickles since May; Grandpa’s garden just keeps producing. I’ve shared them with grateful friends and have enough stashed to get us through the winter (I hope). My beloved grandfather passed just a couple of weeks ago, but the garden lives on. My daughter and I keep making frequent trips to pick through the thick vines and find the latest fruits of his labor. It may very well be one of the best gifts he left us. And each time I’ve bitten in to one of these divine pickle slices, I feel like we’re kind of having a moment, the way only good food can connect us with good people.
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Recipe by Brandi Koskie; photos by Kacy Meinecke
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