Sunday pickles and more

by threegirlpileup

Sunday has become a big cooking day around here. Some of it is taking care of the bounty of the farmer’s market, cooking the beans and corn and more that arrived in the house the day before. This is food for more or less immediate eating. Then there’s processing produce for keeping–today it was roasting a batch of sweet red peppers to go in the freezer (although Steve enjoyed these so much I think he could have eaten them all tonight). And then there’s get-set-for-the-week cooking, in this case a batch of yogurt and refrigerator pickles.

One of the joys of our garden this year has been the abundance of cucumbers. Although we had cucumbers last year, they were erratic and the varieties were not so well suited for pickling–too big and too seedy. And I never seemed to have enough for a full batch. This year, however, we have been rolling in cucumbers (well, at least until the untimely demise of our cuke patch to a case of angular leaf spot), and this has led me to regular production of our version of bread and butter refrigerator pickles. Technically, I think these may just be a salad, as Steve prefers them with cooled brine, which doesn’t cook the cucumbers at all. And I’m not sure if these are truly bread and butter pickles, as I used fennel seed instead of celery seed; I used fennel accidentally in my first batch, and we liked it, so that’s what we kept with. (Well, except for an intervening batch where I used both celery seed and fennel, but we won’t talk about those disappointing 3 quarts of pickles.)

Here’s the recipe:

2 lbs. pickling cucumbers, sliced as thin as you like

1 lb. onions (I used Vidalia), thinly sliced

1/4 c. coarse sea salt

1 c. sugar

1 T. mustard seed

1 tsp. tumeric

1 tsp. fennel seed

1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

1-1/2 cups vinegar

Layer cucumbers and onions in 2 1-qt. mason jars (wide mouth are easier). Amounts given are approximate, just pack those jars full. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan and cook gently until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature; if you prefer a more “cooked” pickle, use hot. Divide evenly between the two jars, and then add spring water to the top of each jar. Shake a little to mix things up. In theory, you want to let these marinate for awhile, but Steve often can’t wait and eats them the next morning.

The best part is that you can re-use the brine several times for multiple batches of pickles. Which is handy when they get eaten as fast as they do around here.

I did make one batch of canned pickles for keeping, and I’d like to try some lacto-fermented pickles, but my last attempt was such a disaster that I’m a little gun-shy. But there’s no question that these simple refrigerator pickles are one of the favorite items around here this summer.