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How to Make Refrigerator Pickles

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Refrigerator pickles allow you to quickly make tasty fresh pickles without canning. You don’t need any special equipment or skills! Learn how to make refrigerator dill pickles and find recipes for lots of other pickles too.

jar of refrigerator pickles on a cutting board

Fresh pickles are one of my favorite summer foods. They are crisp and tasty and not soggy like store bought pickles.

And making quick refrigerator pickles is very quick and easy. It just takes some chopping of vegetables and a five minutes of effort you will have a couple jars of pickles ready to put in your refrigerator.

In this post I go through the basic steps in making refrigerator pickles as I make classic dill pickles. But there are so many other possibilities beyond dill when it comes to pickles, like pickled beets or pickled chard stems.

So the second half of the post I include a round up of 20+ refrigerator pickles recipes – everything from beets to onions to asparagus. Jump right to that section if you are already a quick pickle expert looking for inspiration!

jars of refrigerator pickles - beets, cucumbers and zucchini

Refrigerator Pickles vs Canning

Refrigerator pickles must be kept cold in the refrigerator, and only keep for about 1 month. These are not pickles you can keep on your pantry shelf for six months.

The benefit of refrigerator pickles is that they are so much easier to make than canned pickles. Canning takes huge pots of boiling water, proper sterilization and careful attention to ratios of vinegar to water to salt to sugar.

In addition the hot water processing necessary to preserve pickles in canning makes the pickles softer and less crisp. So there is trade off between preserving for a long time and taste.

When it comes to canning I just can’t be bothered. I like low effort yet great tasting food and that is what refrigerator pickles offer.

pickles on a dish next to a jar of dill pickles

Small Batch Pickles

Refrigerator pickles are made for casual, small batch pickle making. You probably aren’t going to want to make quick pickles from five pounds of cucumbers!

While it is possible to make that many jars of quick pickles, but I don’t have that much room in my refrigerator and there is a limit to how many pickles I can eat in one month!

I usually make one or two jars of pickles at a time. Then when I finish those off I make another couple jars, with different vegetables or different spices.

Equipment Needed

The only special equipment needed for these quick dill pickles is a glass jar with a lid. It does not have to be canning jar. Mason jars used for canning are easy to buy and convenient sizes, but you can use other glass jars.

And if you do use a mason jar you don’t need to use a 2 part sealing lid, because you aren’t going to seal it. So a plastic lid on the jar will work fine as long as it fits tightly.

Ingredients

For these classic refrigerator dill pickles you will need:

  • Cucumber
  • Vinegar – I like to use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for pickling.
  • Water
  • Salt – Pickling salt or Kosher salt will work best.
  • Fresh Dill – You want to use fresh dill for best results. If you don’t have fresh dill then make another kind of pickle, like bread and butter pickles.
  • Garlic
  • Peppercorns
  • Crushed red pepper – Include this to add a little bit of heat to your pickles.

Do I Have to Use Pickling Cucumbers?

You can pickle any kind of fresh cucumber you like, whether it is labeled as a pickling cucumber or not. However pickling cucumbers have been bred to be pickled, so they have advantages.

Pickling cucumbers have thicker skins than ones you’d slice up for a salad. The thicker skin holds up better in the vinegar and the pickles will be crunchier. But use whatever you have!

Step by Step Instructions

While these instructions and pictures are for making one jar of dill pickles the steps are the same for any kind of refrigerator pickle. The only thing that changes is the type of vegetable and spices in the brine.

1. Prepare the Jar and Vegetables

Make sure both the cucumbers and the pickling jar are clean. Wash and dry them both.

slicing cucumbers into pickles

Before you start cutting put the sprigs of dill into the mason jar. Then you can pack the cucumbers right into the jar as you cut.

Slice the cucumber into rounds for the pickles. I like to make my pickles about 1/8 of an inch thick. You don’t want them to be too thin.

filling the jar with cucumbers and dill

You can also cut the cucumbers length wise into spears if you prefer. My family likes round pickle chips instead of spears. Keep slicing the cucumber until the jar or jars are full.

2. Make the Brine

In a small sauce pan combine the water, vinegar, salt, minced garlic, peppercorns and crushed red pepper. Bring it to a boil over low heat.

cooking the brine

For refrigerator pickles a 1:1 ratio of water to vinegar is perfect. You can change the type of vinegar to cider vinegar or red wine vinegar to get a different taste, but keep equal parts water and vinegar.

Stir the brine as it boils to dissolve the salt. Once it reaches a boil let it boil for a minute or two and then take it off the heat.

3. Add Brine to Pickles

Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers in the mason jar, making sure the spices go into the jar with the pickles. The brine needs to cover the top of the vegetables.

pouring the brine into a jar of pickles

If there isn’t enough brine to cover the vegetables top it off with hot water to cover the cucumbers. Then put the lid on the jar and let it cool to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator.

How to Store

The pickles will be ready to eat after only 1 day. Store the jar of pickles in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. The pickles will absorb more vinegar and become less crisp as time goes on.

jar of dill pickles on a cutting board

How to Serve

You can serve these pickles on sandwiches or as a side with dinner. You can also just eat them right of the jar as a snack!

More Refrigerator Pickle Ideas

Want to make something different from dill pickles? Check out all these amazing quick pickle ideas!

Refrigerator pickles allow you to quickly make tasty fresh pickles without canning. You don't need any special equipment or skills! Learn how to make refrigerator dill pickles and find recipes for lots of other pickles too.
By on August 7th, 2020

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