Refrigerator Pickles | CUESA

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Refrigerator Pickles

Source:

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, Shant’s Backyard Kitchen

During this time of isolation, everyone is baking cookies or muffins, hence many markets are running out of flour and sugar. So, instead of sweets, let’s make pickles with fresh vegetables.

Preserving food in acidic and salt solution is an old practice, as our ancestors discovered how to save foods that were in abundance for the time of their scarcity. Archaeological records show that the people of Indus Valley (India) pickled cucumbers as early as 2400 BCE.

With globalization of imported food and modern techniques many foods are available year around. Yet, pickling seems to be a popular tradition. Pickling is a fun activity, and pickles are delicious! By buying and pickling seasonal and local foods we can also support our farmers.

In addition to their pungent taste, pickled vegetables haves many health benefits. Pickles reduce muscle cramps, maintain blood sugar level, and aid the digestive process. And, cucumbers contain valuable nutrients such as vitamins C and K and potassium and Magnesium. Besides, pickles make good munchies; lots of flavor and very few calories. You can have them in between a meal or serve them to your diners while they are waiting for the meal. Pickles make a healthy and attractive edible gift. No picnic baskets should be packed without a jar of pickles.

You do not need any special equipment to make these pickles, except for a kettle to boil the brine. You don’t even need a kitchen. You can make them in your backyard, as my daughter and I did!

Unlike the lengthy process of making pickles that are meant to last for months, the refrigerator pickles are quick to prepare. However, refrigerator pickles are meant to be consumed within 8 weeks, and they usually get consumed faster. Refrigerator pickles are crunchier and, in my opinion, tastier than the pickles preserved for a long time.

The ingredients for this recipe are easy to find in any food store, except for the grape leaves. Preserved and bottled grape leaves can be found in specialty markets and they are added to pickles to keep them crisp, a better option than alum, another additive used for the same purpose. However, if you are going to consume the pickles within a few weeks, then the grape leaves are optional. 

I pickle cucumbers when the organic pickling cukes are available during the summer in Northern California. The conventional variety of pickling cukes are usually sprayed and waxed, and you need the peels on when pickling. If your cucumbers are not organic, scrub and clean them thoroughly, using a brisk vegetable brush, but do not peel. (Any type of cucumbers can be pickled, but pickling cucumbers have ideal skin that can stand up in the brine and contain drier flesh with fewer seeds to soak up the brine.)

INGREDIENTS

10 to 12 in-season pickling cucumbers (preferably organic), rinsed (but not peeled)
1 to 2 small organic carrots, scrubbed clean and cut into 6 to 9 strips
One 3-inch long portion of daikon (Chinese radish), peeled and cut into 6 to 9 strips
Small portion of a jicama, peeled and cut into 6 to 9 thin strips
2 small Italian sweet baby or Gypsy red or yellow peppers, cut into 6 to 9 strips
Few fresh or bottled grape leaves (optional)
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon (or less) salt
2¼ cups cold water (purified water preferred) 
1 teaspoons sugar (or less)
A dozen sprigs of fresh dill weed
8 to 10 chunks of smashed garlic cloves, after removing skin
Few slices of a jalapeno pepper, rinsed and seeds removed (optional)

PREPARATION

Rinse all the vegetables and prepare them as described. Rinse the dill and grape leaves. Set them aside.

Next, make the brine for the pickles. Combine vinegar and salt in a saucepan and bring them to a complete boil. Transfer this liquid into a bowl and add the water and sugar. Whisk the brine to dissolve the salt and sugar. (Adjust the acidity and saltiness as you like by reducing the amount of vinegar and salt. You can also reduce or eliminate sugar for this recipe.)

Prepare 3 clean, pint-size, wide-mouth mason jars with tight-fitting lids. Arrange a few pieces of grape leaves on the wall of the jars. Arrange some dill weed sprigs into each jar. Add a few garlic chunks at the bottom of the jars. Next, arrange the vegetable strips into the jars so that they stand next to each other, well-packed, but leave some room for the brine. Add more garlic pieces, dill weed, and a piece of grape leaf on top. For the spicier pickles, place a few jalapeno slices on top of the jars.

Next, slowly pour the brine on top the vegetables of each jar, making sure that all vegetables are totally immersed in liquid. Each jar should get one cup of the brine. Close the jars tightly and leave the pickles at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. Then, gently turn the jars upside down, so as to distribute the brine. Leave the jars like this for 45 minutes to an hour. Next, turn the jars right side up and refrigerate them. The pickles will be ready to be consumed in 36 hours. Make sure to refrigerator the pickles after each use. These pickles can keep for up to 2 months.

When you are done with consuming all the pickles, the brine can be used to make a second (but smaller) batch of vegetables. This batch of pickles will be minder—less tart and less salty. After the second batch, you will need to start a new solution.

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff is a resident of the Sunset District of San Francisco. Shanta is a co-founder of Other Avenues Food Cooperative, where she worked for over three decades. Currently retired from that job, Shanta writes recipes and articles on food and nutrition. She demonstrates vegetarian recipes and teaches cooking classes in SF. Shanta is the author of the cookbooks Cooking Together and Flavors of India and a local food co-op history book, Other Avenues Are Possible: Legacy of the Peoples Food System of the San Francisco Bay AreaShanta's cookbooks are available in San Francisco at Other Avenues Food Cooperative, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, Green Apple Books, Folio Books, Ominvore Books, Book Passage, and in Sausalito at Driver's Market. You can also order her books through books.google.com, greenapplebooks.com, or instacart.com/rainbow-grocery

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