Quick Homemade Pickles

A little more than a year ago, I remember blaming my being under the weather on “that bug all my friends were sick with”. The only difference was that I felt fine so long as I ate pickles and drank milk. Weird bug. Well, that bug is now almost six months old and a wiggly, giggly bundle of joy. Looking back on my ‘pickle-and-milk flu’ days, I am appreciating how, in my time of need and horrible morning sickness, pickles stood by me and got me through with a smile on my face. In honor of that, I wanted to try to make homemade pickles. But in an easy way since I now have a baby to keep track of.

I adore pairing delicate circles of gently pickled cucumber with sandwiches, smoked salmon, or [when I’m pregnant] milk. The beauty of the pickles I decided to make was that I was working in small batches so they’ll be devoured straight from the fridge, not prepared for long-term storage. This took some of the pressure off of my process and sterilization of the containers. But I still researched proper techniques.

You know where to look for traditional agricultural information and resources? The wealth of knowledge known as 4-H extension offices. How do I know this when I wasn’t in the 4-H? I spent a three summers interning at their head office in D.C. My first year there, I was charged with writing descriptions for each of the books in their catalogue. Being an enthusiastic university student, I gave it my all by actually reading every single book (about 80-150 publications) so I could accurately write a three-sentence summary of its importance, message, and ideal audience. It also made me realize that 4-H has a massive collection of resources on everything from sewing and knitting to farming and food preservation. Of all the resources I found, I liked these the most for their layout and clear writing styles:

The general message is that if you want the flavor to last and for it to be safe to eat, follow careful jar and tool sterilization processes. To think, this is what our grandparents needed to do for most things because summer fruit and vegetables were not readily available otherwise. And just two generations later, some of these techniques are lost or seen as intimidating. Or is it just me (a city girl) who feels that way? So even though my quick pickles were not being stored in a pantry for next winter, I wanted to make sure the flavor wouldn’t be tainted by contaminants.

The other difference with my pickles is that I limited the spice. Some pickling spice mixes include a lot of different flavors, but I just wanted a tangy accompaniment for a sandwich. You know, just a few steps more flavorful and tender than a regular cucumber slice. So, instead of using cinnamon, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, whole cloves, allspice, juniper berries, whole mace, dill seeds, turmeric, coriander seeds, bay leaves, and dried ginger, I only used mustard seeds, freshly ground black pepper, caraway seeds, sugar, and fresh dill.

Pickles Cucumber Slices and Lemon

Preparations: I sterilized the jars, prepared the countertop and ingredients, and washed my hands very well.

Quick Pickled Cucumber Slices

1 fresh cucumber
Salt
1 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dry mustard seed
1 bunch fresh dill, stems removed
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 red onion very thinly sliced

1. Wash, dry and thinly slice the cucumber then place in a colander over a shallow bowl. Sprinkle the cucumber slices with salt while shifting the slices so they are all have a bit of salt on them. Set aside covered in a dishtowel for 45-90 minutes while working on the next step. We’ll get back to these slices in step 3.

2. In a pot, combine the water, vinegars, mustard seed, half of the dill leaves, pepper, and onion. Bring to a boil then reduce to low heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Rinse the salt off the cucumber slices then pat dry with a clean towel. Transfer the cucumber slices to the clean jar.

4. Pour the simmering liquid into the jar carefully. If you live in an area with insects, cover the jar with a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth. Let the contents of the jar cool to near room temperature then seal and refrigerate.

5. Serve the pickles atop a sandwich or, if pregnant, with a glass of milk.

Two Batches of Homemade Pickles

Quick Pickled Lemon and Cucumber Slices

1 fresh cucumber
Salt
1 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 cups white granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dry mustard seed
1 bunch fresh dill, stems removed
1/2 lemon very thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest

1. Wash, dry and thinly slice the cucumber then place in a colander over a shallow bowl. Sprinkle the cucumber slices with salt while shifting the slices so they are all have a bit of salt on them. Set aside covered in a dishtowel for 45-90 minutes while working on the next step. We’ll get back to these slices in step 3.

2. In a pot, combine the water, vinegars, mustard seed, half of the dill leaves, lemon slices, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil then reduce to low heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Rinse the salt off the cucumber slices then pat dry with a clean towel. Transfer the cucumber slices to the clean jar.

4. Pour the simmering liquid into the jar carefully. If you live in an area with insects, cover the jar with a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth. Let the contents of the jar cool to near room temperature then seal and refrigerate.

5. Serve alongside smoked salmon and buttered brown bread.

Two Batches of Homemade Pickles

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