It has been an interesting first year for the massive garden plot my husband planted. Many of the things we expected to do poorly thrived, and others we thought would do well flopped. One thing that has grown in abundance are the pickling cucumbers. We’re harvesting lots of big, bright green cukes and turning them into one of our favorite treats… refrigerator pickles! I’ve loved pickles for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I ate them faster than my poor mom could buy them!
My friend Alana first taught me how to make healthy pickles and it quickly became one of my favorite things to make. I’ve adapted this recipe from her original instructions.
Aside from the obvious savings of not having to purchase pickles, we prefer our homemade variety because they are made with lemon juice rather than vinegar*. I realize the standard belief about vinegar is that it’s good for you and I may make a few enemies here, but bear with me. From various studies and inspired writings I’ve read, along with my own personal experience (and that of others), my belief is that vinegar is best used externally. I am referring here to white (distilled) vinegar, which is a common ingredient in most condiments such as ketchup, mustard, pickles & relishes, salad dressings, etc. Fermentation occurs in the stomach as a result of ingesting vinegar, and rather than breaking down and digesting, the food remains in the stomach, decays, and releases toxins into the bloodstream. For this reason, those with blood disorders and diseases (HIV, anemia and sickle-cell anemia, leukemia, thrombosis, polycythemia) should strictly avoid vinegar. The high acidity level of vinegar is also damaging to the stomach when consumed on a regular basis.
An easy and healthful substitute for vinegar is lemon juice. We are blessed to have a lemon tree in our backyard that yields enormous, juicy lemons, but any fresh organic lemons will do and, when necessary, pre-bottled organic lemon juice. I have yet to find a recipe calling for vinegar in which I can’t substitute lemon juice with great results. It’s perfect for pickling and preserving foods.
When my husband and I were courting, he had never heard of someone making their own pickles and was wary of how they would taste, but he absolutely loved these and now prefers them to the vinegar-free pickles from the health-food store. This year, I decided to teach him how to make them, and we had a great afternoon preserving our cucumber harvest together. It’s an incredibly easy recipe and makes a great kids’ activity as well.
You can adjust this recipe to suit your tastes, adding more or less onion, garlic or dill, but with pickles, more is generally better than less. You can also cut the pickles to your preferred shape – we made whole pickles out of the little ones, spears from the medium and the large ones we sliced into rounds (great for sandwiches!). Whip up a batch to munch on a hot summer day and stay cool as a cucumber. 🙂 Enjoy!
Ruth’s Summertime Refrigerator Pickles
Combine in a 1-quart large-mouth jar:
4 sprigs fresh or 2 tsp. dried dill
1/2 an onion, sliced (I prefer red onions for taste and appearance)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 C lemon juice
1 C water
4 tsp. salt
Add cucumbers and press down into jar. Top with remaining 1/2 onion, sliced. Cover and refrigerate. Slices and spears will be ready to eat in 24 hours, whole pickles should sit for 3-4 days prior to eating.
*Apple cider vinegar is structurally different than white vinegar, and while I still don’t recommend its use in food, it does have certain medicinal properties that I believe can be beneficial in certain situations (although I know some will disagree).