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Slightly sweet, spicy and oh-so-easy pickles

Pickles are trendy, popping up on menus and topping sandwiches like never before. Restaurants are making and serving their own signature pickles, and booths at farmers’ markets feature emerald-green jars of pickles and relishes.

I caught the fever for distinctive pickles in San Francisco at a food conference last spring and have been seeking them out ever since. I keep buying jars here and there, and love the crunchy, sweet, spicy flavors! So many flavor options and so much better than the common grocery store fare.

Then it crossed my mind. Should I make pickles? Brining, weeks of fermentation, safe canning procedures — the thought left me cold, for it sounded like a lot to tackle.

Then I discovered this recipe, Slightly Sweet Dill Refrigerator Pickles, from Bon Appétit magazine. It has opened a whole new sweet and tart world for me. They are so simple and quick to make but are crunchy and packed with flavor.

Do not let the jar scare or mislead you. Although called pickles, they really are more like marinated cucumbers and are ready to serve the day after you make them. You don’t need bushels of cucumbers, for the recipe makes just 2 quarts. They are not processed, so you don’t need special equipment, but they must be kept refrigerated and served within about a week. It you can’t eat up a couple of jars in a week, enjoy one jar and take the second to a friend or neighbor. They will love you for it.

Now is the time to make pickles, for the farmers’ markets are brimming with baskets of pickling cucumbers. The picklers are small, about 4 to 5 inches long, and are crisp and tender. Do not use the typical grocery store varieties that are waxed. For these quick gems, just slice six or seven pickling cucumbers and add the flavorful brine.

I am hooked. Join the pickle craze and make a batch.

Slightly Sweet Dill Refrigerator Pickles Makes 2 quarts 1 small sweet onion (such as vidalia or Maui), thinly sliced
2 pounds medium pickling cucumbers, scrubbed, and cut into 1/4-inch rounds 1 large bunch dill, coarsely chopped (stems included) 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds 2 teaspoons whole white peppercorns 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water 1 cup sugar 3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt 2 teaspoons dill seeds

Divide sliced onion between two 1-quart wide-mouth glass jars. Pack cucumber slices horizontally in jars. Top each jar with dill.

Using mortar and pestle or resealable plastic bag and mallet, crush mustard seeds and peppercorns together. Place crushed spices in medium saucepan. Add vinegar, 1 cup water, sugar, coarse salt and dill seeds. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Ladle mixture evenly over cucumbers. Leave jars uncovered and chill 24 hours.

Cover glass pickle jars tightly with lids. Keep refrigerated. Serve within 1 week.

(Recipe credit:

Bon Appétit magazine

; June 2008

Kathy Moore is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants who make up The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is Triple Slow Cooker Entertaining. She develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com
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