Refrigerator Pickles with Cucumbers and other Vegetables
By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff (author of Cooking Together)
Pickling vegetables, fruits and other food items has been an old tradition throughout the human history, as our ancestors must have figured out how to preserve abundant food for the time of scarcity. Stories of pickling have been documented in many folklores.
Preserving foods in vinegar or other acidic solutions is one of the oldest methods of preventing food spoilage. Archaeologists believe that ancient Mesopotamians pickled food in 2400 B.C and that people of Tigris Valley in India pickled cucumbers in 2030 B.C.
Pickled vegetables haves many health benefits such as reducing muscle cramps and maintaining blood sugar level. In addition, pickles are a good source of antioxidants. Pickled foods are easy to digest and pickles aid the process of digesting in general.
Pickling vegetables for the fridge is very easy. Unlike pickling processes for long-term preservation, here the pickles are meant to be consumed within two months. And this recipe requires very little preparation. You can combine many vegetables to make your jar colorful and turn it into an elegant, edible gift. No picnic basket should be filled without a jar of pickles!
The ingredients needed for the recipe are easy to find at Other Avenues, except for the grape leaves. Fresh or preserved grape leaves can be found in ethnic specialty food markets. Although not essential for pickling, grape leaves are added to the jar of pickles to keep them crisp — a better option than alum, another additive used for keeping them crisp.
4 to 6 pickling cucumbers (2 or 3 if long)
2 medium size carrots
1 (or a ½ ) daikon radish or a bunch of breakfast radish or 1 watermelon daikon*
2 cups white vinegar**
3 cups water (purified water preferred)
2 tablespoons (or less) kosher salt (or any sea salt)
2 teaspoons sugar (or less)
5 to 6 smashed cloves of garlic, skin removed
Several sprigs of fresh dill weed
Few fresh or bottled grape leaves
Few small pieces or slices of jalapeno pepper after removing seeds
*Any fresh and crisp vegetables can be used for pickling.
**Adjust the amount of vinegar and salt to suit your taste.
First rinse all vegetables, but do not peel. Then, cut them into thin strips. You can slice some vegetables such as watermelon daikon into thin rounds. Rinse the dill weed and grape leaves and pat dry them with towels. Prepare the garlic as described in the list. Set the prepared vegetables and the herbs aside
Next, combine the vinegar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a complete boil. Transfer this solution into a mixing bowl and add the cold water and sugar. Whisk the solution to dissolve the salt and sugar. Set the solution aside.
Clean two wide mouth quart- size mason jars with tight-fitting lids. Line the bottom of the jars with some garlic chunks, two pieces of a grape leaf, some dill weed sprigs and two pieces of jalapeno pepper. Next, arrange the strips and pieces of vegetables into the jars making sure that the strips stand next to each other, well-packed but leaving some room for the liquid solution. Arrange grape leaves on the wall of the jar, reserving two pieces to be added on top. Add remaining garlic, dill weed and jalapeño pepper into both jars.
Next, slowly pour half the liquid solution on one jar of the vegetables and the rest of the solution on the other jar. Arrange remaining grape leaves on top. Close the jars tightly and leave the pickles at room temperature for an hour. Then, gently turn the jars upside down to distribute the liquid and place the jars in the refrigerator. The pickles will be ready to be consumed in 36 hours. Make sure to place the jars back in the refrigerator after each serving. These pickles can keep for up to two months.***
*** When you have finished all the pickles from the jars, the brine can be used to make a second batch. These will have a milder, less tart and salty flavor which some people may prefer. Discard the liquid after the second batch of pickles. You will need to start a new liquid solution for the following batch(es).