The thought of canning foods makes me want to put on a bonnet, mold a couple of beeswax candles and fry up the animal my husband brought home after putting in a hard day’s work at the mill.  As much as playing prairie girl appeals to me the threat of whipping up some Botulism infused jelly in a haphazardly sterilized jar does not.  I am a big chicken when it comes to home canning.

I know, plenty of folks safely and easily can and pickle shelf stable foods at home, but I cook by feeling ; my creative flair in the kitchen does not mesh well with the scientific approach warranted to ensure a batch of preserved garden asparagus won’t kill someone down the road. To make matters worse, house pickled vegetables have been popping up on restaurant menus all over the place lately and I have never been one to shy away from a notable food trend. 

Even though I have no desire break out the pickling lime and Ph testing strips, I still love the idea of adding my own in-vogue house pickled vegetables to my dishes. Thankfully refrigerator pickles pack a powerful flavor punch and don’t require a lab coat to produce.  Of course they are not shelf stable and must be kept in the refrigerator at all times, but offer even the most timid cook a chance to be fearless in the kitchen.

Making quick brine with a neutral flavor allows for each batch of refrigerator pickles to be as unique as the next.  Pack a sanitized jar or storage container with the veggies of your choosing (cucumbers are a perfect first choice) and add any flavorings you’d like…herb springs, citrus zests, pungent seeds, garlic or onions all work well.  If you are making two jars of pickles at once go ahead and add some extra heat to one and a little extra sugar to the other…even though the brine is same for both jars the flavors will be different in the end!

Even if you don’t need goggles’ or a bonnet to make your own trendy pickles, I can’t think of a better way to put a bumper crop of cucumbers to good use.  Don’t be afraid. Give ‘em a try!

Master Brine for Refrigerator Pickles:

Makes enough brine to fill 1 packed quart size jar or storage container. Sanitize the jars in the dishwasher before filling.


  • ¾ C White Vinegar
  • 2 C Water
  • 2T Sugar
  • 1 ½ t Salt


Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Heat until salt and sugar dissolve.  Pour the warm brine over the vegetables, spices, and herbs in the jar.  Cover and allow jar to cool to room temperature.  Place the jar into the refrigerator and allow to sit for 24 hours before serving.  Pickles MUST be kept in the refrigerator and will keep there for about 1 month, but they will become stronger the longer they sit.  Pickles will be at peak flavor after I week.

Mel’s Favorite Refrigerator Pickle Combinations:

Hot Pickle Spears: Pack a jar with raw cucumber spears, 3 fresh garlic cloves, 1t red Pepper Flakes, 3 Dill Springs, and a halved Serrano Chili.  Cover with the brine and refrigerate.  Serve with sandwiches or burgers.

Garlic Coins: Pack a jar with raw cucumber slices, 5-6 cloves roughly chopped fresh garlic, 5 dill sprigs, 12 black peppercorns, 2t sugar, 1t coriander seeds and 1t mustard seeds.  Cover with the brine and refrigerate.  Serve on buttered bread, in sandwiches, or as a garnish for grilled fish.

Garden Giardiniera: Pack a jar with par-cooked cauliflower, ½ C celery, ½ C chopped raw red and yellow pepper, 3 thyme sprigs, 12 black peppercorns, ¼ C minced onions, 1t celery seeds and 3 slivered garlic cloves.  Cover with brine and refrigerate.  Serve the on submarine sandwiches, Italian beef sandwiches or on top of greens.  To make Hot Giardiniera add 2 sliced jalapenos and 1t red pepper flakes to the jar before adding the brine.

Tarragon Beans: Pack a jar with raw green beans, 2 bay leaves, 2 halved garlic cloves, 12 black peppercorns, and 2 tarragon sprigs.  Cover with the brine and refrigerate.  Serve as a snack or garnish in salads.

Beets and Onions:  Pack a jar with layers of roasted, sliced beets and raw sliced onions.  Add 4 dill springs and 12 peppercorns.  Cover with the brine and refrigerate.  Serve in salads or on rye bread with smoked fish.

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