Easy Sweet Refrigerator Pickles
If you’re new to canning, a batch of easy sweet refrigerator pickles is the perfect place to start. You’ll get all the flavor and lovely jar presentation without the part that intimidates new canners the most — the “vacuum sealing” part that keeps what’s inside shelf-stable for months or years to come. By making refrigerator pickles, the jars head right to the fridge and will keep for several weeks — the perfect amount of time for this favorite summer treat. They won’t last long enough to worry about how long they’ve been inside!
Canning and preserving have made a huge comeback in recent years, along with several other “heirloom skills” under the urban-homestead umbrella like gardening, knitting, carpentry, and even having your own flock of egg-laying hens. Along with the growing interest in “buying local” through farmer’s markets and co-op grocery stores, more and more folks are digging out their canning jars, unscrewing those shiny, spinning lids, and getting to work filling them with jams, preserves, sauces, salsas, chutneys, beans, and that savory classic we’re starting with today — pickles.
Let’s make some easy sweet refrigerator pickles!
Before you start, it helps to have a friend in the kitchen. My favorite culinary companion is my cat Rue. She’s lost her toy under the stove. Again.
I stopped by a local farmstand and picked up some pickling cucumbers, which are small with thin skin, along with an onion, green pepper, and bunch of fresh dill. After slicing up the cucumbers, onion, pepper, and celery I tossed them together with a tablespoon of salt in a colander and set it to “sweat” in the sink for an hour. The salt draws out the liquid in the vegetables, so they’ll be able to suck up more brine once they’re in the jar.
While the salt was doing its thing, I washed and sterilized my jars and prepared the vinegar mixture. Since these are sweet pickles, sugar is whisked into the vinegar until it’s completely dissolved (don’t skip this step – whisk until it’s smooth!) and then a tablespoon of mustard seeds is added to the mix. All I had were black mustard seeds, but yellow works great, too.
To fill the jars, add a heaping spoonful of the cucumber mixture, then tuck a few pieces of fresh dill along the sides of the jar. Not only will it give your pickles a bit of that classic dill flavor, but the delicate fronds look beautiful outside the jar. Add more of the cucumber mixture, making sure to pack it in pretty good.
Once the jar is full, pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumber mixture until it reaches the top. A funnel is helpful here, or eliminate the need for a funnel altogether by mixing your vinegar and sugar in a large measuring cup or bowl with a spout!
You may notice here that I added liquid before the jar was full. I was filling them halfway, then adding some of the vinegar mixture before completely filling the jars up to the top. This was a bad approach — it used up too much of the vinegar mixture and made the jars appear to be full, so I thought I had leftover cucumbers and not enough brine. I got out another jar and made another batch of brine, but what I should have done was cram more of the cucumbers into the original 4 jars so they’d displace more of the brine that I could then distribute evenly among the jars.
They look fine here before getting their lids and heading to the fridge…
But then the next morning the each jar had a good two inches of clear brine at the bottom. Oh well — at least I get to share my “mistakes-turned-knowledge” with you so you won’t make the same error!
Are you a canner? Tell us your favorite things to “put up” in the comments section!
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