Saturday, July 4, 2015

Pickled Pink – My Attempt at Quick Pickles!

I recently spied some adorable little Kirby cucumbers at the Farmer’s market.  They are small and their skins are not waxy at all.  Plus, they don’t really have any bitter tough seeds.  I’ve also seen these lately at supermarkets and I was inspired to try and make some pickles.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know nothing at all about canning, sterilization or pickling – those all seem more like pioneer woman skills than abilities I’d actually possess!  But, I do have a collection of Mason jars just waiting to be used for something other than Pinterest crafts, so I figured I would try me hand at some quick or “refrigerator” pickles. 
Refrigerator pickles are just what they sound like.  You need to keep them in the fridge and since they’re not preserved with lots of salt or boiling, they’re only going to last for about a month.  That’s no problem because in my house, they keep getting gobbled up in a few days!  This pickling method lends itself especially well to bread and butter pickles, because you really want to eat those chilled anyway.  They’re so crispy and sweet, but also a little spicy and briny.  They are just wonderful on sandwiches, burgers, in salads, or just as a side dish.  This version has the added benefit of not having such a high amount of salt.  So, you can really enjoy them guilt-free!
I’ve made three batches already this year and today, we’re going to be enjoying them with some pulled pork barbeque to celebrate the fourth of July.  Go ‘Merica!
Seriously though, don’t be intimidated by the idea of pickling – it really could not be easier!  It just takes a few minutes of active cooking and a couple of hours of resting time.  I used that time to watch a few episodes of Orange Is the New Black, telling my family to “leave me alone – I am making pickles!!”  Shhh….don’t tell my secret!!
Here’s my technique.  First, slice up the cucumbers and some sweet onions.  I like the onions really thin but the cukes not too thin – maybe about 1/6 of an inch.  Place them all together in a large bowl and sprinkle about 1 Tbsp of salt over the top.  Toss lightly and then throw a few ice cubes on top, allowing to sit on the counter.  When it looks like the ice has melted (about 90 minutes), drain off all the water.  This way, you’re also draining off much of the salt and lots of liquid from the cucumbers and onions.  This will allow your cucumbers to remain crisp when pickled and take some of the bite out of the onions.
Once that’s done, boil all the remaining ingredients together and then pour it over the cucumbers and onions, and allow that to sit for about an hour.  That’s it!  You’re done – for real!  Just pour into jars and allow to chill in the fridge for at least 12 hours ideally.  If you feel the need to dive into them after 2 hours, they’ll still be great!
For spices, these are all eye-balled amounts – I am way too lazy to measure!  If you like spicy, add more crushed pepper, if you don’t, leave it out altogether.  You can play with the flavors a bit based on personal preference and what you have handy.  Here is the actual recipe:

12 small cucumbers
1 vidalia onion (or other sweet variety)
1 Tbsp salt
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
A few whole peppercorns
2-3 whole allspice
About 1 Tbsp whole mustard seeds
About ½ tsp whole coriander
Good sprinkle of crushed red pepper
3/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp turmeric

Slice your onions thin and your cucumbers into 1/6th inch disks.  Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Toss lightly and throve a few ice cubes on top.  Allow to sit at room temperature until the ice cubes melt (about 1-2 hours).  Drain well – you should have a lot of liquid to pour off. When those are ready, place all the other ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil to melt the sugars.  Remove from heat and pour the hot liquid over the cucumber and onion mixture.  Press down on the cucumbers so that all are covered with the liquid and allow to cool uncovered at room temperature for about an hour.  You can then transfer these to jars or Tupperware style containers.  This recipe makes about 3 standard size mason jars worth of pickles.  They’re best after another 12-24 hours in the fridge to crisp up, chill and allow the flavors to meld.  Store in the refrigerator – good for about 4 weeks…but they’ll never last that long!  Enjoy!

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