From harvest to table ~ what's cooking now?

This blog shows where all those garden goodies I grow end up. I call this little eating area next to the stove my "chef's table" because at all the best restaurants it's a privilege to be invited to dine in the kitchen where the chef reigns supreme. So here I am "reigning" and you are all invited. :-D

Monday, August 1, 2011

Quick refrigerator pickles

First off, let me make this perfectly clear.

I've never made a pickle in my life.  That said... the internet is bursting with all kinds of pickle recipes (some approved by the government, most just family recipes).  Since I'm having a bounty of cukes this year (slicers and picklers) I decided to make something - something simple.

REAL simple.

I read tons of recipes and they were similar and yet different.  About the only thing consistent was acid (vinegar), sugar (a little or a lot), and spices.   So I headed for Wal-Mart for supplies.  I found exactly what I wanted - including Pickle Crisp.  This product sounded way simpler than soaking cukes in lime to make them crunchy.  But it's hard to find it sometimes, so I brought home 2 jars, just in case this whole pickle experience turns out well.

Back in the kitchen...

Do I want to process (BWB)?  Nope.

Do I want to cook the cukes? Nope.

Sounds like refrigerator pickles then.

I decided to get creative with a small batch for a first effort:  

4 large Sweet Success cukes, 
1 large green bell pepper, 
1 large Vadalia onion.  

I sliced them into a bowl, sprinkled on 1T of Mrs. Wages pickling salt, tossed in a couple cups of ice cubes and let it all sit in the 'fridge for 3 hours.

Meanwhile I tinkered with a brine:  
3C white vinegar, 
3C cane sugar, 
1T Ball's pickling blend, 
1/4t tumeric, 
1/4t garlic granules, 
1/2t red pepper flakes. 

I brought the brine to a boil for 3 minutes, then set it aside.
 I was shooting for something like a zesty (hot-ish) bread'n'butter flavor.

Three hours later I pulled out the cukes/veg mix and rinsed off the salt.  Then I stuffed 4 (washed but not sterilized) pint jars with the mix, added 1/8t (rounded) Ball's Pickle Crisp (calcium chloride), poured in the lukewarm brine, screwed on the plastic lids and put them in the 'fridge.  I also ended up with almost a pint of extra brine (so I guess I'll be making more pickles soon).

Then I waited.

I didn't wait long.  (I'm not the most patient person.) The next day a friend joined me for supper and we had sliced chicken sandwiches.  I just HAD to see if the pickles tasted anything like B'n'B pickles and if Pickle Crisp really worked.

Allowing for the fact that the pickles hadn't brined for even 24 hours, the taste was very nice - not as sweet as a 'normal' B'n'B, but a lighter flavor.  But, wow.  Definitely zippy!  And they were nice and crunchy.  So were the onions and the bell pepper chunks -- a nice pickle crunch, not the crunch of raw veg.

Two days went by, the pickles disappeared.  My friend took a jar home.  My mom tried them and there went another jar.  So 3 days later (and another basket of cukes harvested) I'm making more pickles.  This time I'm using quart jars. :-D

Initially I wondered how long this kind of pickle (uncooked cukes, unprocessed jars) would keep fresh in the 'fridge.

The way they are walking out of here, I may never really know....

You experienced picklers out there, if you see I'm playing with fire here and likely to make someone ill, please let me know! In fact, ANY suggestions would be appreciated. Bottom line, at this point, I don't want to process my pickles. Just make something quick and simple - and safe. Thanks!


Follow up:  I made another batch this afternoon.  I didn't use any bell pepper this time.  I used 2 large Vidalia onions and almost filled my salad spinner bowl with sliced cukes.  

I was shooting for 4 quarts of pickles, but was shy.  Next time I'll fill the salad bowl to the top - that should give me 4 quarts.  While I sluiced off the cuke liquid, I didn't rinse off the salt this time.  (Like I say, I'm tinkering with taste here.)  I used up the leftover brine and added 1C vinegar, 1.5C sugar (I think it needed a little more sweetening), 1/8t garlic.  But I forgot to add more tumeric, so this brine is a little less golden than the last.  And I didn't wait for the brine to cool.  After it boiled for 3 minutes, I let it sit for just a couple minutes and then poured it over the sliced cukes/onions & the Pickle Crisp.

Now we wait again....

I'll be helping a neighbor with her garden on Thursday since she's had wrist surgery. I think I'll take her a jar of pickles to help her recover.... :-D

8/14/2011  - More pickles

On 8/8 I made a 3rd batch of pickles.  Folks really seem to like them and since I'm having the BEST CUKE HARVEST EVER this year, I'm making pickles willy-nilly.

This batch I rinsed the soak salt off the vegs --  I didn't notice any taste difference between batch #1 & #2, so the salt didn't bring anything to the party.

Like before I oval-cut the cukes (better sandwich coverage), sliced up Vidalia onions and, for fun, I added 4 large red hot Hungarian wax peppers to the mix.  This time I filled up the bowl.

I used the same brine - equal portions of white vinegar to sugar, pickling spices (Ball's mix, then extra tumeric, garlic granules, allspice and celery seed.  I thought I might be tempting fate to include red pepper flakes because of the wax peppers.) Oh, and I'm really happy with the Pickle Crisp!  I highly recommend it.

But I was wrong.  While this batch is as tasty/crunchy as the previous batches, they don't have the zip putting red pepper flakes in the brine gave the last batches.  So next time - I'm flaking!

I'm still getting cukes and I'll probably make another batch of pickles.  One thing I've noticed, when piling the pickles onto burgers, sandwiches or chopping them into chicken salad, I'm always looking for more of the pickled Vidalia onions.  So I'm going to also make up a batch of JUST onion slices.  Heck, I may even do them the 'real' way - sealed jars and BWB, the whole 9 yards. Those things are just ridiculously good! 

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  1. Kris,the pickles look great; the last ones look more like traditional B&B.

    Sugar always helps cure anything and as long as the water to vinegar ration stays at least 50/50 they have enough acid to make them safe.

    I never process pickles! I tried that last year and the B&B were soft.
    I have been making pickles since about 1965 and haven't killed anyone yet! I do most of my canning the old fashioned way. I don't tell anyone else to do it, but I do it. The only thing I follow to the letter is with beets.

    With B&B I boil the syrup solution; then dump the prepared veggies into the pan and just bring back to the boil; turn heat way down to keep it hot. Fill jars being careful to keep the rim clean. They all pop and seal. I let the set on the counter for a few days then remove the rings, wipe down the jars and put on the shelf.

    I still haven't bought the Pickle Crisp but plan to.

    BTW, what model is the Canon? I almost bought one instead of the Panasonic and still wish I had. It is on my list for the next camera. Your pictures tell me why; just perfect clarity and color.

  2. I'm with Glenda.

    I've started using Pickle Crisp and I love it. If I heat the cukes, though, I put the Pickle Crisp in the brine. It's the cooking that makes the pickles soft and I don't know if the Pickle Crisp would work after the pickles had already gone soft.

    I've used my MIL's dill pickle recipe for 40 years and never made anybody sick! And she raised 12 kids on her canned food and they were all healthy.

    But I always put a caveat whenever I post a recipe because everybody's so scared of the old recipes now.

    If you ever want to try my B&B and dill pickle recipes, they're on the grandma blog under "Recipes Requested".

    My dad used to make refrigerator pickles all the time and they were really good and crispy even though he didn't use lime or alum and we didn't know anything about Pickle Crisp in those days. He was always so proud of his pickles. Took up a lot of space in the fridge though.

    I really enjoy making pickles because it's so quick and easy and doesn't heat the kitchen up much. Hubs loves the dills, I love the B&B's!

  3. Kris, I am re-visiting this to see what we did different. I skipped the ice water step.....wonder if that could be it. I just used the cucumbers straight out of the garden.

    Of course I never use the ice on dills.

    I am not giving up on the PC yet.

  4. Glenda - in all 3 batches I've made so far, I've always salted the cukes and let them sit for at least 3 hours. That way they lose some of the water. Nor did I ever apply any heat to the cukes. They are all raw when put into the jar and the brine is never more than 'finger holding' hot when I pour them over the cukes sprinkled with Pickle Crisp. I've read on the Harvest Forum that some use the PC during the ice water/salt soak. Then the calcium chloride soaks up like it does from the lime.

    Hope you find a way to make the PC work for you. Fingers crossed...X