How To Finally Start Pickling All Sorts Of Produce

This year, finally start preserving your extra produce with insanely easy-to-make refrigerator pickles.

January 2, 2018
refrigerator pickles
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If you're into healthy eating and growing your own food (or at least frequenting farmers' markets for seasonal fare), you've probably thought about trying your hand at pickling. Your wannabe-homesteader self is drawn to it for its food waste-reducing and flavor perks. Still, it can seem a little daunting. But we've got some good news: You don't have to dive right into more complicated fermentation or canning. There's an easier way to pickle requiring minimal skill that you can start today.

We're talking about refrigerator pickles. They're ridiculously easy to make and will last a few months in your fridge, without the hassle of dragging out all your canning equipment. You're basically just adding produce (peppers, green beans, carrots or anything else your pickling heart desires) to a mixture of vinegar and salt; just about anything can be turned into refrigerator pickles, so don't limit yourself to cucumbers. (Here are 8 foods you should always buy at the farmers' market.)


(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

Refrigerator pickles are healthy, too, if you're using organic apple cider vinegar, such as Bragg's, that's full of immune-boosting probiotics. (Apple cider vinegar is also the basis for my favorite homemade energy drinks.) The following two basic recipes are delicious in their own right, but they are also a starting place for limitless variations using different veggies and seasonings. Add more garlic, add spicy red pepper for hot pickles, or substitute other herbs for the dill. Just take advantage of whatever ingredients you have in your garden or find at your local farmer's market.

Dill Refrigerator Pickles

Yield: 1 quart

5 medium cucumbers
1 tablespoon pickling salt, sea salt, or kosher salt (but not iodized table salt)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water 1 head dill or small bunch dill leaves
1 clove garlic (optional)
3 black peppercorns (optional)

1. For the crunchiest pickles, select firm, dark-green pickling cucumbers that have not started to ripen to white or yellow. Cut them into spears or slices, as desired. To increase the crunchiness, you can sprinkle the cut cucumbers with a couple of tablespoons of salt, let them sit for 2 hours, and then rinse and drain before proceeding, but this step isn't absolutely necessary. 

2. Place the dill in the bottom of a clean quart jar, peel and crush the garlic clove (if using), and drop that in along with the peppercorns (if using), then put in the cut cucumber. Mix the salt, vinegar, and water in a separate container, stirring until the salt is dissolved, then pour it over the cucumbers, filling the jar right to the top. Pop on the lid and put the jar in the fridge. Refrigerate for at least 1 day before eating.


Related: How To Make Sauerkraut In A Jar

Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

Yield: 1 quart

3 cups sliced cucumbers
1 cup sliced onions 
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon pickling salt, sea salt, or kosher salt 
1 cup cider vinegar
1 ¾ cup white sugar or ⅞ cup honey to taste
1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon celery seed
2 cloves, whole

1. Prepare jar and veggies as for dill pickles. Combine the remaining ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan, bring them to a boil, and simmer until the sugar or honey is dissolved.

2. Put the veggies into the jar and pour the vinegar mixture over them, stirring to make sure all veggies come in contact with it. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 day before eating.

Here's a quick video showing the simplest way to make your own refrigerator pickles:

Reuse Refrigerator Pickle Juice 

Last, but not least: After you chase down the last (homemade or store-bought) pickle in the jar, STOP—don't dump that juice! It's all ready and waiting (and in a jar already, no less) for another batch of refrigerator pickles. Just slice or chop up fresh veggies and drop them into the jar. The pickle juice should completely cover the veggies. If it doesn't, take out some of the veggies or add a bit of vinegar, and shake. Screw on the lid and put it back in the fridge. Let the juice soak for a few days, and continue to reload the jar as long as the pickles' flavor continues to please you.