I have jumped on the preserving bandwagon. I want to can, jam, dry, freeze all the produce I can get my hands on. However, reality outstripped my ambitions, and I started modestly with some refrigerator pickles. Easy, spicy, crispy and just an afternoon in the kitchen. Food preservation was part and parcel of my childhood. My mom canned tomatoes, which lined the walls of our cellar. Those jars were ferried up the stairs on wintry Friday nights for my Dad’s favorite and ritualized spaghetti dinners. I get that visceral delight from embracing the abundance of this time of year, preparing it and squirreling it away for the spare days of winter.
Makes 2 quarts
6-8 small pickling cucumbers, whole or sliced lengthwise
8-10 micro carrots (purple, orange, yellow) or big orange carrots sliced into sticks
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
1 small, sweet onion, sliced into half moons
Cauliflower florets (a few for each jar)
2 jalapeños (use whole or for extra spice, slice open)
2 serrano peppers (red and green)
2 dill flower heads
4 cups water
10 cloves peeled garlic
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 T kosher salt
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds (brown and yellow)
1 tsp dill seed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp peppercorns
1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add garlic and lower heat to a simmer. Cook garlic for 5 minutes to lessen the strength of sulfur compounds, which can discolor garlic and taint the brightness of vegetables.
2. Add vinegar and salt and bring mixture back to a boil. Stir until salt dissolves. Remove saucepan from stove.
3. Prepare 1-quart canning jars by sterilizing in boiling water for 10 minutes. You can also sterilize jars and caps in the dishwasher. In dry jars, place dill heads, garlic and spices. Fill jars with vegetables and chiles. Pack them in fairly tight but don’t fill beyond the bottom thread of the jar.
4. Bring the brine back to a boil, and pour directly over your vegetable-packed jars. Place seals on top and twist lids until ‘finger tight’. Turn jars upside down, to help ensure a good seal. Once the jars cool, store in the refrigerator. Let them pickle for a few days up to a week to maximize flavor. They will last a few months in the refrigerator.