The lazy man’s way to pickles: Quick, crisp Fresh Dill Pickles need no canning

by Terry B on September 14, 2011

These crisp, lively Fresh Dill Pickles get their flavor from dill, garlic, jalapeño peppers and coriander, mustard and fennel seeds. And they’re ready to eat in 24 hours, without canning. Recipe below.

A friend of ours is very good at blackjack. She’s actually gone on Caribbean vacations and stayed at casinos, where her daily routine has been to hit the tables for a couple of hours in the morning, long enough to make dinner and walking around money for the day, then head to the beach. She can do this fairly reliably. When incredulous friends ask why she doesn’t do it for a living, she says simply, “Then it would be work.”

This goes a long way toward explaining my lack of interest in canning, I think. I love to cook (I hope you can tell that much from my weekly ramblings here). But I love doing other things too. I’m not one of those people who fantasizes about spending an entire day in the kitchen. Canning, to me, involves a little bit of messing with food and a whole lot of work—much of it around boiling, steaming cauldrons of water.

That scenario not only clashes with my desire to do other things, it runs headlong into undiagnosed but possible ADD on my part. And, if we’re being totally honest, a certain amount of laziness. When I was a kid, some get-rich-quick scheme ran ads in the backs of comic books with the headline “The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches.” I can’t remember the gist of the scheme (and I’m sure the only one who got rich from it was the guy running the ads), but taking “the lazy man’s way to riches” became my code for taking shortcuts. Repairing something with duct tape. Cramming clutter into the spare bedroom moments before company arrives.

Or in this case, making pickles without canning them. The first time I heard about fresh pickles, marinated overnight or over several days in vinegar and herbs and spices, but not officially canned, it was an epiphany. No, you didn’t have something that would last through the winter ahead, but you had something you could eat almost immediately—crunchy, tart, tangy and open to all kinds of interpretations. And you didn’t have to boil a single jar.

There are countless variations on making fresh pickles (or refrigerator pickles, as they’re also called). They include salting the pickles beforehand, then rinsing them, to increase their crunchiness (honestly, since you don’t cook these pickles to bring them to safe pickling temperature, they stay satisfyingly crunchy without this step). You can mix vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a jar and just shake it until the salt and sugar dissolve. You can use hot tap water to aid in the dissolving. Or you can heat the vinegar to a boil with the salt, sugar and some of the aromatics to enhance their flavor. That’s what I did, taking a slightly less lazy man’s approach, I’d like to think.

What follows is a bonafide recipe, with accurate measurements and all the steps spelled out. But please feel free to use it as a jumping off point and tinker away. As created below, the pickles are crisp, flavorful and lively, packing only the slightest hint of heat. And what they are not is salt bombs, as many commercial pickles are.

The one ingredient you do need to find is the right cucumbers. What you want is short, stubby Kirby cucumbers. They may also be called pickling cucumbers or, as they were labeled at the produce market where I found mine, fresh pickles. They are not waxed like their larger brethren, and they’re nicely pickle sized.

Fresh Dill Pickles
Makes 16 pickle spears

1-1/2 cups distilled white vinegar (see Kitchen Notes)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds (I used brown mustard seeds)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1-1/2 cups water, plus extra
4 Kirby cucumbers, about 1 pound total
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced into thin rings
3 to 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
12 sprigs fresh dill (plus more, if desired)

Special equipment: 2 wide-mouthed jars tall enough to accommodate the cucumber spears.

Combine vinegar, sugar, salt and coriander, mustard and fennel seeds in a medium sauce pan. Bring the vinegar to a boil over medium high flame, stirring frequently, until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Wash and dry the jars. Rinse the cucumbers carefully and pat them dry. Quarter the cucumbers lengthwise and pack slices into the jars. Divide the chopped garlic and jalapeño slices between the jars, tucking between the cucumber slices. Tuck 6 sprigs of dill into each jar.

Add 1-1/2 cups of water to the vinegar. Divide vinegar mixture between jars, making sure the seeds get divided as well. If necessary, add a little water to completely submerge the cucumber slices. I added about 1/4 cup to each jar. Close jars tightly and shake to mix in added water. Refrigerate at least 24 hours before eating. Pickles should keep up to a month refrigerated.

Kitchen Notes

Vinegar variations. Distilled vinegar gives these pickles a sharp, clean flavor. It also preserves the pickles’ beautiful emerald green color; cider vinegar would not. You might also experiment with white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar. Some recipes even call for a mix of white vinegar and white wine; keep in mind that the wine’s alcoholic content would still be present in this mix.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Taras September 14, 2011 at 5:39 am

Sorry to be picky, but you are equating pickling with canning. You Can make pickles without canning, but you can’t make pickles without pickling. To pickle your food you have to put it in some sort of pickling solution. If you like pickling without much work than you should try Lactic fermentation. After fermenting and transferring to your refrigerator these pickles will last up to 12 months. These taste like pickles Grandma or your Aunt made all those years ago. Having said all that, did you mean to say ” or in this case, making pickles without canning them “? PS. I’ll stick to canning, I’m lousy at blackjack! :) Taras

Terry B September 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Oops! You are of course right, Taras. I’ve updated the post to remove the P-word. Thanks! And I’m lousy at blackjack too.

Valentina September 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I love this — the pickles look so crunchy and fresh! I want one!

Cathy @ Savory Notes September 15, 2011 at 7:34 am

Oooh, I’m dying to try my hand at making pickles AND I’m impatient! This seems like the perfect recipe for me :)

Christopher Nguyen September 15, 2011 at 6:46 pm

This is genius!

I love pickles. I eat them all the time without anything else. Yeah I’m one of those people. But to make fresh pickles overnight? It’s like easy-access snacks!

The Rowdy Chowgirl September 15, 2011 at 9:06 pm

These look great and I’m going to try them! I’ve been on a quick pickle kick this summer.

rachelsdigestif September 16, 2011 at 5:03 am

These look awesome! I promised myself that I would make homemade pickles this summer…clearly that didn’t happen. However, these look doable for the near future. Thanks for the post!

This American Bite September 27, 2011 at 4:18 am

I’m not good at making pickles, not good at all, and I have never tried canning anything – and have no desire to. Perhaps it’s time for me to try those pickles again though.

Cooking in Mexico October 6, 2011 at 12:25 am

Here in Mexico, if we want good pickles, we have to make them ourselves. I just tried another recipe (before I found yours) that called for salt, but not vinegar. The pickles are good, but dull in color. This is my next pickle recipe to try.

By the way, we opened up our jar of pickled heart of palm today for the first time. We only have heart of palm when we cut down a coconut palm — a rare occurrence — so I took advantage of the bounty. I used red pepper flakes and dry oregano for seasonings. They are great!

I found you in the Christian Science Monitor — great recipes. Thanks.

Kathleen

Terry B October 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Thanks for the great comments, everyone. I actually flew out for a culinary press trip to Columbus, Ohio the morning this posted and was terrible about responding.

Kathleen—I hope you like them. And I was delighted to discover your blog. I want some of those chiles en nogada with fresh fruit right now!

Jessica L October 5, 2012 at 2:45 am

Hi! Do you use 2 pint jars or 2 quart jars?

Terry B October 5, 2012 at 3:26 am

Good question and funny story, Jessica. I bought pint jars, thinking that would do the trick. But then I saw that the Kirby cucumbers were too tall for them. I happened to have a couple of pasta sauce jars available, bigger than a pint, but not a quart. They were perfect.

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