I heart pickles. Pickles are a wonderful invention. They’re really a bit strange when you contemplate soaking tiny cucumbers in vinegar and salt, for months (or years), and then eating them as a snack. But I won’t think too much about the process, and just focus on the sour, salty, crunchy delight that is a well made pickle. In the summer of 2009, Kevin, his parents and I made 50 jars of dill pickles. These pickles are so good, friends beg for jars, and we no longer have store bought pickles in the house. However, I cannot share the recipe, it is a family secret, and you’ll just have to get invited to my house to try their magnificence. We didn’t make dill pickles this year, as there are still about 10 jars left, but I’m sure the summer of 2011 will see us repeating the pickle sweatshop at the family cottage.
I’ve always enjoyed bread and butter pickles, and have been thinking about the merits of these with cheese and crackers, as we have been eating nothing buts dills for a year now. I saw freezer pickles on the Everybody Likes Sandwiches blog a few weeks ago, and have had some sweet and crunchy cukes in my sights ever since. This weekend on the grocery run, I grabbed an English cuke and a package of mini cucumbers, to make some sliced pickles and some pickle spears. We had some small hot peppers from Kevin’s father’s garden, and a ton of onions from our now finished CSA box. A rummage in the pantry turned up salt, vinegar and sugar, and without much fuss, I had my pickle ingredients.
Most freezer pickle recipes recommend using freezer containers, like ziplocks or leftover plastic tubs, but I just couldn’t face the esthetics of that approach. I put some of my empty glass pickle jars (from last year’s home made dills) through the dishwasher and decided to risk the glass in the freezer.
Every freezer pickle recipe starts the same way: Thin-slice your cukes and an onion, cover them in salt and let them mingle in a bowl for 2-3 hours. I guess this dehydrating process helps them stay crispy- get rid of some juice before you add the brine. Many of the recipes called for celery seed, pickling spice, mustard seeds, or tumeric, but I had none of these in my cupboard. So….living dangerously….my hot peppers had to take the lead as flavouring agent.
I was a bit torn about the vinegar to sugar ratio….some had 2:1 sugar to vinegar, some had 1:1, others had some water in the mix. I decided to try the 1:1 ratio, with no water.
- 3 cups sliced cucumber
- 1 onion, thin sliced in rings
- handful small hot peppers
- 2 tbsp sea salt
- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 cups white vinegar
- Thin-slice your cukes and an onion, cover them in salt and let them mingle in a bowl for 2-3 hours. Drain liquid and do not rinse.
- Boil sugar and vinegar together. Arrange cucumbers and onions in jars while the brine cooks.
- Pour hot brine into jars, leaving 1 inch room at top of jar. Seal jars.
- Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Thaw in fridge before serving.
Because I used canning jars with proper lids, and poured the brine over while still very hot, my jars actually sealed themselves. I feel like this defeats the “freezing” step, as that seems to be for preserving them when using plastic containers that don’t seal like a jar does. So, I put one jar straight into the fridge and left it over night. Because I have no self control, I then opened it the next day to go with a lunch of crackers and cheese. The results? Fantastic! So delicious: crunchy, sweet, a bit spicy, and totally already pickled. I think because the pickles are sliced and then salted, they are primed to suck the vinegar and sugar right up. We leave our traditional dills for 6-8 weeks before eating, which makes sense because the cucumbers are pickled whole. But this method appears to be instant gratification.
I did freeze my 2 remaining jars, and the glass did just fine because I left a lot of head room. I thawed out a jar after the fridge version rapidly disappeared. The taste is really no different, the pickles are just as crunchy, but the pickle itself is a bit more transparent. I think the unfrozen ones are prettier. My guess is that freezing is only necessary if you’re using a container that you can’t seal with a traditional canning method. But who knows! It’s difficult to unravel the mysteries of canning- an age old process with much oral tradition.