New Recipe: Quick Dill Pickles

New Recipe: Quick Dill Pickles

Briny, spicy, crunchy pickle spears or chips can be ready for your next barbecue ... yes, the one you're having tomorrow! Try this quick refrigerator pickle for a fresh, snappy way to showcase summer's harvest.

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There’s nothing like crunching into a dill pickle. You get a tang of white vinegar, bite of dill, and smack of garlic. I love them as chips on my cheeseburgers, down the length of a Chicago dog, and as a snack with cheddar. Thankfully, they can be made in less than an hour with a little cucumber know-how.

Pickle your fancy

You can pickle any type of cuke but I prefer iconic Kirbys. They sometimes have spikes or bumps that need to be scrubbed with a brush. Before you start, remove the stem end of the cucumber: It contains a rooting hormone that makes the vegetable mushy during the pickling process. With vinegar-based quick pickles, you'll forego the multiple-day lacto-fermentation process of traditional sour pickles, but be rewarded with a fresh, snappy texture.

One of the easiest tricks to speed up any kind of pickling is to increase the surface area of the vegetable. A whole cucumber will take the longest to take on the pickled flavor once they're in the jar, while a halved one will soak up the more brine faster. In the recipe below, spears or thick chips will get you full pickle flavor overnight. Very thin 1/8-inch chips will be done the fastest, but won’t crunch. If you want whole-cuke pickles, take a tip from James Beard and prick the outside all over with a fork. I've taken it a step further and driven a skewer down the middle so the brine can soak into the core of the cucumber.

Give it some spice

When it comes to spices, aim for 2 tablespoons of any pickling mix. Feel free to play with both fresh and dried aromatics. Fresh dill branches are called heads, one arm of a branch is a sprig, and the tips are fronds; I use two heads per pint of pickles. For garlic lovers, grate cloves with a microplane or pound to a paste to get a more intense garlic flavor. For a milder garlic infusion, lightly crush the clove or slice it in half. Peppercorns and other seeds have volatile oils that release when you grind them fresh; I opted for ground coriander to round it all out. Many other recipes call for fennel seeds, mustard, and onion — feel free to play around with the spices to create your own personal favorite mix.

Lastly, these pickles are meant to be made and consumed quickly. If you don’t finish them in a week, they will continue to steep and the flavor will get stronger (which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your tastes). Mellow it out by adding a bit of water and shaking the jar like a snowglobe. Better yet, just eat them up. Another batch is right around the corner.