Just look at those two. Look at them. Those are my parents, Jim and Vivian, in June of 1976. I haven’t confirmed this, but my guess is that this photo was taken on or around my mother’s birthday. At the time of this photo, my parents had only been married just under 3 years. They still have newlywed glow surrounding them. They are both simply perfect, aren’t they? Well, aren’t they??
I decided to include this amazing photo of my parents because this post has a lot to do with my dad and my childhood. Growing up, I would help my dad in the garden each year. I would hold the tiny beans in my tiny hand as my father made an indentation in the dirt with his index finger. I would plop them in, one by one, and pat them down gently with my palm. I would loosen the roots of the tomato plants as my dad dug holes for them. I would help spread grass all over the garden, making sure not to miss a spot. When it was time, my dad would send me out to “harvest” what was ready.
One of my earliest memories is of picking cucumbers in order for my dad to make quart upon quart of dill pickles. I can virtually guarantee that my love of all things vinegar started then and there, right in our kitchen. He’d send me to the garden with a bucket and I’d tiptoe through the cucumber plants, lifting up their scratchy leaves, and hunt for the perfect batch.
We don’t have cucumber plants in our garden this year. In fact, we’ve never planted them. However, at the farmers market on Sunday, I found some really good-looking cucumbers, just waiting to be pickled. But because I don’t have the right set-up for making “true” dill pickles, I opted instead for refrigerator pickles. Essentially, they are the same, but refrigerator pickles don’t keep as long, which is fine with me, because I could eat the whole jar in one sitting. Plus the juice.
I gathered the essential ingredients – dill from my garden, garlic from the farmers market, and various other spices I already had in the house. I chose to add a few Thai peppers to my batch of refrigerator dills, as well as cut my cucumbers into spears; two things my dad never would have done. But I stayed true to his recipe in all other respects.
I boiled a quick brine of apple cider vinegar, distilled white vinegar, and water in a pan and poured it over the awaiting cucumbers. I allowed the quart to cool to room temperature, and into the refrigerator they went!
Scott and I tried them yesterday for lunch – they had been in the fridge for two days. Truthfully, they were pretty tart from all the vinegar, but I liked that, naturally. They had a nice spice from the Thai peppers, and a subtle (perhaps too subtle) dill flavor. My hope is that after a few more days in the fridge, they will absorb a little more of the fresh dill.
So, thanks Jim, for inspiring me to make your dill pickles. Thank you for the lasting childhood memories of you in the kitchen, prepping, packing, and pickling all those cucumbers of my youth.
Jim’s Refrigerator Pickles
Makes 1 quart
4-5 medium pickling (or kirby) cucumbers
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup filtered water
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
3 bunches fresh dill (umbel and frond)
3 scallions (white parts only), chopped
3-4 Thai peppers, stems removed and pierced with knife
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed
Wash and dry cucumbers, cut ends off, and slice into spears.
In a medium saucepan, bring vinegars and water to a boil.
To a 1 quart jar, add garlic, dill, and next 6 ingredients. Pack cucumber spears into the jar as tightly as you can without crushing them.
When brine comes to a boil, pour over the spears, leaving about 1/4 inch space from the lip of the jar. Screw lid onto the jar and let them cool to room temperature. When cool, place them in the fridge. Let them cure at least 2 days before eating, but longer if you can stand it. They’ll keep for at least a month in the refrigerator…if you can make them last.