With the first Calypso cucumbers ripe on the vine, it was time to make some refrigerator dill pickles. Since a recent post showed the fermentation crock that I bought online you might think I would be eager to start fermenting pickles. Well, I can’t wait two or three weeks for pickles to ferment vs three days for refrigerator pickles. Now that I’ve made them for a few years I’ve found out that refrigerator dills are easy and quick. I think they are better than hot canned pickles which are not crisp, although refrigerator pickles have to be used in one or two months, which has never been a problem.
So the cucumbers were ready, or were they? This is one of the hardest parts of pickling cucumbers, knowing when to pick them. One way is judging when they ‘size up.’ That’s another way saying that they have reached or nearly reached full size. They will grow fast until they reach full size and then not grow or grow very slowly. Problem is by the time you determine that they are no longer getting bigger they can over-ripen. I thought about picking and pickling these cucumbers yesterday but chose to wait until today. Here they are, three fine plump specimens, averaging a bit over 3/4 pound, along with the dill weed.
Then I noticed, or remembered, there’s another criteria to use, color. The Calypso cucumbers start a dark green which develops pale greens streaks as they mature. These cucumbers were definitely a paler shade of green than they were yesterday.
Making refrigerator pickles is a snap, which I hope the pickles themselves will have. I use a 50/50 mix of water and cider vinegar. Each pint of mix gets a tablespoon of salt and a teaspoon of turbinado sugar. The salt and sugar is added to the water in a pan and gently heated and stirred until it is dissolved, then the heat is turned off. After cooling awhile the vinegar is added. This method keeps down the vinegar smell. For this batch I made 3 pints of pickling mix.
After slicing off the ends the cucumbers were cut into quarters. Originally I planned to use halves but the cucumbers, averaging over ¾ pound each, were too large for that. And here is where I saw that they were in fact, a little over ripe. The seeds have developed too far and the centers are wet. That means they will be a little soft in the middle and the skin will be a little tough. Not a disaster, but they could have been picked earlier to have that perfect crunch.
As for the recipe, it’s pretty standard. I’m not sure exactly how much spices were used in past preparations, but here is what was used for each quart: One TB mustard seed, one TB dill seed, one teaspoon coriander, four garlic cloves, dill leaves (weed), and one dill flower. I recall that too much coriander overpowers the other flavors, hence only a teaspoon. I like all stages of the dill plant in the jar, each one has its own flavor profile, and you really shouldn’t skimp on fresh dill, that’s what makes the pickle. The three pickles made two quarts of refrigerator dills, with a quart of pickling solution left over for future use.
Note, after pickling two quarts I decided to pick the remaining cucumbers that looked ‘almost ready’. One of them was damaged as it grew trapped between the post and the trellis. The other two made another quart of pickles. Those cucumbers were just ripe enough.
If I can make these anybody can. What makes a good refrigerator pickle is fresh ingredients - freshly picked cucumbers and dill. The rest is easy.