Cooking Together

Cooking Together: Refrigerator Pickles

by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

During this time of isolation, many people are baking cookies or muffins. As a result quite a few  markets are running out of flour and sugar. So, instead of sweets, let’s make pickles with fresh vegetables.

Throughout the human history, our ancestors discovered how to preserve foods that were in abundance for the time of scarcity.Keeping in salt and acidic solution is one of the oldest methods of preserving food. Archaeological records show that the people of Indus Valley (India) pickled cucumbers around 2400 BCE and that Mesopotamians pickled food about that time. 

Pickled vegetables haves many health benefits. They reduce muscle cramps, maintain  blood sugar level and aid the digestive process. Pickles are a good source of antioxidants.  

Unlike the lengthy process of preserving food for a long time, the refrigerator pickles are quick to make. No picnic basket should go without these pickles! Pickles also make a colorful edible gift.

The ingredients for this recipe are easy to find in any food store, except for the grape leaves. Fresh or preserved grape leaves can be found in specialty markets. Grape leaves are added to pickles to keep them crisp, a better option than alum, another additive used for the same purpose. 

Pickling Recipe 

4 to 6 pickling cucumbers (preferably organic- when in season)* cleaned 

2 medium-size organic carrots, scrubbed to clean 

One 3” long portion of daikon (Chinese raddish), peeled 

2 small Italian sweet baby or Gypsy red or yellow peppers, cut into strips 

1½ cups distilled white vinegar

3½ cups cold water (purified water preferred)

2 tablespoons (or less) salt 

2 teaspoons (or less) sugar

8 to 10 chunks of smashed garlic cloves, after removing skin

A dozen sprigs of fresh dill weed 

Few fresh or bottled grape leaves 

Few slices of a Jalapeno pepper after rinsing and removing seeds (optional)

Rinse all vegetables. If the cucumbers are not organic, scrub the skin thoroughly to clean using a brisk vegetable brush, as the peel is an important part of cucumbers in pickling. (Organic cucumbers are available during the summer months, starting late May or early June.) Some root vegetables such as daikon (or jicama) should be peeled.  Cut the vegetables into thin strips or rounds. Rinse the dill and grape leaves and pat them dry. Set the vegetables and the herbs aside.

Next, make the liquid solution or the brine. Combine vinegar and salt in a saucepan and bring them to a boil. Transfer this liquid into a bowl and add the water and sugar. Whisk the brine to dissolve the salt and sugar.

Clean five wide-mouth, pint-size mason jars with tight-fitting lids.  Line the bottom of the jars with a few garlic chunks, a piece of a grape leaf and some dill. Arrange a grape leaf on the wall of each jar. Next, arrange the vegetables into the jars so that the strips stand next to each other, well-packed, but leaving some room for the brine.  Add more garlic, dill weed and a piece of grape leave on top. For the spicier pickles, place a few jalapeno slices on top of one or two jars and label the jar(s) “hot”.

Next, slowly pour the brine on top the vegetables of each jar. You have approximately five cups of liquid, so, each jar will get one cup.  Save the leftover liquid for the next batch or discard it. Close the jars tightly and leave the pickles at room temperature for an hour. Then, gently turn the jars upside down, so as  to distribute the brine evenly and place them onto some pie plates (or cookie sheets) to catch the leaking liquid.  Leave the jars like this for an hour (or overnight if it is a cool night).  Next, turn the jars right side up and then 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 two months.

Note: 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 milder — less tart and less salty.  After the second batch, you will need to start a new solution.  

Variation for Refrigerator Pickles Made with Steamed Vegetables 

Some vegetables such as Brussel sprouts and cauliflowers make great crunchy refrigerated pickles.  But you may want to cook these vegetables just briefly before adding the liquid brine. 

Trim the ends of 12 to 15 Brussel sprouts. Cut them into halves to obtain about 2½cups.  Separate 15 florets of a cauliflower to obtain 2½cups. Place 2 cups of water in a pot to boil. Place vegetables onto a steamer basket and insert the basket in the pot and cover. Steam for 3 to 4 minutes only so that the vegetables are blanched but still firm. Transfer vegetables to a bowl of cold water to cool.  Drain water out and arrange the vegetables in 5 pint-size, wide-mouth jars.  Add a few smashed garlic cloves and a few dill weed twigs. (For spicy pickles, add a few slices of jalapeno pepper.)

Make the liquid brine using the same method as in the recipe above and pour into the 5 jars. Close the jars tightly and place them upside down onto pie plates.  Allow the jars to stand at room temperature for an hour. Then turn the jars right side up and keep them there for an hour. Next, refrigerate the pickles. They will be ready to be served after 36 hours.  

Copyright © 2020 by Shanta Nimbark Sachaff 

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff is a Sunset District resident and the author of “Cooking Together” and “Flavors of India,” both available at Other Avenues Food Store on 3930 Judah Street. Shanta writes recipes and articles on food and nutrition. She also teaches vegetarian and vegan cooking classes in the Outer Sunset.

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