Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fresh Refrigerator Pickles: One Cucumber at a Time

The inventory of the roadside veggie vendor near here depends on what his farming friends in the low country of South Carolina have. This past week, he had pint baskets of cucumbers and one of them came home with me. I like cucumbers but who wants to eat the same veggie several days in a row? Small, one-cucumber batches of fresh pickles to the rescue, each with different flavors.

This recipe needs no canning and can be done at the drop of a hat. It is completely flexible.

Step 1: Make brine for the pickles.

The sweetness and sourness of the pickles depends on the brine. If you look at recipes in books or online, you'll find great disparities among the ingredient ratios.

You can choose how to proportion
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt
I am happy with
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
This is about enough to cover 2 separate 1-cucumber batches. This makes a sweet but not cloyingly sweet pickle that is tangy without being too sour.

Bring the brine to a boil and stir to fully dissolve the sugar. I do this in the microwave.

Step 2: Prepare the vegetables

Slice, cube or other wise cut the cucumber into pickles shapes. Layer in a covered dish with the flavors you have chosen for the pickle.

Consider the following combinations:
  • sliced cucumber, sliced yellow onion, chopped garlic, fresh dill
  • cubed cucumber, sliced red onion, cinnamon stick, peppercorns
  • Slice cucumber, squares of red bell pepper, slice sweet onion, whole coriander seeds
Step 3: Pour brine & refrigerate

Pour the hot brine to cover the vegetables and spices. Cover with cling film and refrigerate.

These pickles can be eaten as soon as they are cold but they improve in flavor over the next few days, by which time they will probably be gone.

This recipe can serve as the basis for pickling other vegetables, e.g. zucchini, summer squash, sweet potato slices, cauliflower, etc. Have fun experimenting!

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Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.