These easy garlic dill pickles are a refrigerator pickle with no processing. They stay crisp for up to a year and are a quick way to keep your harvest.
After jams and salsa, pickles were the next thing I made on my teach-myself canning journey. First, all that vinegar meant they were super safe, so my newbie-canner self didn’t need to worry about that and second, I love small pickles (even though I hate cucumbers!). I started with traditional water-bath canned dill pickles so they could be stored on a shelf, but soon moved to pickles that are stored in the refrigerator, or “refrigerator pickles.”
Here are a few reasons why my family came to prefer the refrigerator pickles:
- They stay crisp.
- They stay crisp.
- They stay crisp.
Yep, it’s the main reason why I don’t water-bath can them anymore. But there are actually other reasons why you might want to do your pickles this way too:
- They take less time. I can finish a quart in about 20 minutes.
- If you’re growing the cucumbers, you can do 1 or 2 quarts at a time as they ripen. This is especially good for small gardens that can only fit a few cucumber plants and would never have enough for a full canner load.
- There’s no heating the house with a canner on the stove during the height of summer (it’s 104 in the shade at my house today!).
- The recipe can be altered with seasonings and garlic without the risk of food poisoning that comes with playing around with recipes for water-bath canners.
Here’s an important safety note about homecanned pickles: I know there are some people that “can” their pickles this way all the time, just letting the heat from the vinegar mixture “seal” the jars (a process known as “open kettle” canning) before storing them on a shelf without any water-bath canning. I know that people have done this for many years in some cases and that “nothing has happened” in their experience. I hear and read this all.the.time.
However, the USDA says that this practice is not secure and that there is a danger of food poisoning as well as spoilage. Here’s a good article on the subject.
And my take on it is this: IF the rare occurrence did in fact happen with one of my home-canned foods, would it be worth it? What about if it might cause intestinal problems? My answer is NO- it’s only food and never worth sickness (or a life, heaven forbid) and I will never even take that chance, especially when it’s so easy to take the recommended precautions.
So, off my soapbox and onto our fully refrigerated pickles!
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How to Make Easy Garlic Dill Pickles
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- Enough cucumbers to fill a quart jar, minimum. You can multiply the recipe for however many jars you can make.
- Cider vinegar (a little more mild than white)
- Canning & pickling salt
- Fresh dill heads
- Garlic cloves
- Pickling Spices (good price) here’s an organic pickling spice
- Red pepper flakes (optional, but SO good)
- Quart canning jar(s), sterilized in boiling water for 10 minutes or run through the dishwasher as a guard against spoilage. (confession: I never do more than wash well with hot soapy water, but do as I say and not as I do!)
- Plastic canning storage lids or metal lids and bands: this is a time it’s okay to reuse old canning lids since they are not actually sealed for refrigerator storage (to ensure proper seals in fully canned products always use new lids- this is not the area to scrimp- your time is worth it).
- Metal canning funnel (my preference since we’re pouring in a hot brine) or plastic canning funnel.
Prepare the Cucumbers
1. Scrub the cucumbers well. My favorite pickles are from the smallest “baby” cucumbers and it’s the main reason I grow my own. I used to pay a lot for “baby” pickles in the store after realizing that I couldn’t pick out only the little cucumbers at farms. Yeah, for some reason they frowned on that.
2. Find the blossom end of the cucumbers. That would be the end that doesn’t have the stem where it attached to the vine. (You may laugh, but I had to learn these things!) Apparently, there’s a wicked enzyme here in this little end that will turn your pickles to a soft, NOT CRISP, pickle. And since we’re making this recipe in order to get a crisp pickle, let’s not cut this corner, OK?
3. Just cut a little off. We do not want pickles with sawed-off ends. This I tell you from experience (hey, if a little’s good, then a lot’s great, right?).
4. Repeat with all your cucumbers. Tip: When dealing with a larger amount of cucumbers (for 3 or more jars) I separate the cucumbers into 3 piles by size: large, medium, and small. Then it’s easy to fill the jars with the larger cucumbers, then medium and ending with the baby size.
Make the Pickles
1. Fill each clean jar with: four cloves of garlic, sliced in half to release all the garlicky goodness, 1-2 heads of dill (if you’d like even more dill flavor you can add a teaspoon of dried dill seed as well), and red pepper flakes.
The pepper flakes are optional, but really add to the flavor. You can try everything from a few shakes to 1/2 of a teaspoon for each jar, depending on the spiciness level you’d like to achieve.
2. Pack the cucumbers into the jars, right on top of the other ingredients. You can pack them as tight as you can, but allow enough room at the top for the brine to cover all the cucumbers.
3. Add vinegar and water to a large saucepan along with pickling spice, pickling salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Pour the hot brine into the jar(s) using a canning funnel and ladle. Fill to cover the cucumbers, leaving about 1/4″ head space (the space between where the brine stops and the very top of the jar rim).
Since these will be stored in the fridge, we don’t have to be quite so particular about the head space. Anything that covers your cucumbers, but doesn’t touch the lid is okay.
5. Label the lid with the day as well as the month and year. You will need to let these “cure” in the refrigerator about 3 to 4 weeks before they’ve pickled enough to eat, so you will want to have the day that you made them on the label. I think they are best after a whole month, so usually we wait that long at least, and they will continue to improve over the months in storage.
6. Store in the refrigerator. I think they are best after a month, so usually we wait that long at least to eat the first pickles, and they will continue to improve over the months in storage.
That’s it – you’ve just made the BEST dill pickles you will ever eat!
I make enough quarts with our summer harvest of cucumbers to last us until the following summer (12-13 for our family) and have had no problems with them storing in the fridge for that length of time. We’ve eaten them at a year-and-a-half, too, and they’re still great.
Click the arrow for the printable garlic-dill pickles recipe with all the measurements & steps!
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