Every summer, I make a note on my Oh My God Good Vegetables Are Finally Here! cooking to-do list (what, you don’t keep one?) to post about how to make classic dill pickles. Every week they’re available, I pick up nearly a bucket of perfect-for-pickling kirby cucumbers from the Greenmarket for my cucumber-junkie family with the greatest intention of finally making good on this promise. And I never, ever do. It might be that the first couple times I tried, many years ago, my always-too-hot kitchen molded both jars, traumatizing me at the end of the jars’ incubation periods. It might be that because I live in NYC, when I want an insanely good sour pickle, I just go to The Pickle Guys on Essex Street or track down some from Guss’. Like bagels, killer soup dumplings, or Halal cart street meat, amazing pickles are in a category of food you have to be extremely driven and possibly cuckoo to make at home in NYC. I mean, I am, but apparently not enough.
I make these instead. These are our go-to fridge pickle, and they are ludicrously easy. Do you have salt? Do you have vinegar? You’re set. They’re passable an hour later, excellent 6 to 8 hours later, and you can also enjoy them three weeks from now — though by then, we’ll be on our third batch.
Most fridge pickles expect you to heat a brine with vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Garlic is sliced, complex pickle spice blends are purchased or assembled, usually leaving me seeking uptown and down for elusive dill seeds. I’ve found you need none of this to make an excellent pickled cucumber. All I do when I get the cucumbers home is wash them, slice them thin, pile them in a lidded jar, sprinkle in some salt, plain white vinegar and a few snips of fresh dill, if I remembered to buy it too, and give it a good shake and place them in the front of the fridge so you’ll remember when you look in to shake them once or twice more. The water component of the cucumbers is enough to form a sloshy brine within a couple hours.
We pile them onto sandwiches. We chop them into salads, potato and other. We eat them straight, in a little pile on our plates. Sheesh, I even tuck them into my son’s lunchbox, in the smallest container and it always (unlike the other vegetable compartments, sigh) comes back empty. Everyone needs more recipes like this in their back pocket, ridiculously easy ways to use mountains of summer produce with a delightfully low effort-to-result factor.
One year ago: One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes (raise your hand if you still make this all the time!) (we do!)
Two years ago: Peach Pie
Three years ago: Charred Corn Tacos with Zucchini-Radish Slaw
Four years ago: Lemony Zucchini Goat Cheese Pizza
Five years ago: Thai-Style Chicken Legs
Six years ago: Salad Olivier
Seven years ago: Ratatouille’s Ratatouille
Easiest Fridge Dill Pickles
You can tweak these in any number of ways. You can add a couple cloves of garlic, lightly crushed but still inside their skin. You can use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dill seeds instead of the fresh dill or 1 tablespoon of pickling spice, if you prefer that flavor. You could add all or a part of one white onion, sliced paper thin (use one less Kirby to compensate for volume). You can add a bay leaf or two. But, for us at least, the treat is how you can skip all of the above and still make a perfect pickle snack. With four ingredients, you’ve got no excuse not to always have them on hand.
If you can’t find kirbys, seedless cucumbers (those long ones usually in plastic) also work here, although they’ll be less crunchy.
[Updated: A few people commented that they found these too salty. I’m so sorry. I’m now recommending a modified amount, to be safe. You can bump up the salt as high as 5 teaspoons if you find you’d like more.]
8 larger or to 10 smaller firm, fresh Kirby (pickling) cucumbers
3 teaspoons kosher, coarse or pickling salt (if using a featherweight brand such as Diamond, use a little more)
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup white vinegar
Slice your cucumbers very thin — I used 1/8-inch slices here but usually go even thinner on a mandoline. Place them in a 1-liter or equivalent lidded jar. Add 3 teaspoons salt and dill, then pour in white vinegar. Close the jar and give it a few shakes to begin distributing the ingredients.
You’re going to find the liquid level in the jar worrisomely low as it is well below the pickle pile line, but don’t fret. Within an hour or two, the salt will draw the moisture from the cucumbers and wilt them, while the liquid becomes a perfectly balanced pickle brine.
Place jar in the refrigerator near the front, which should remind you to shake it once or twice more over the new few hours. (Or whenever you’re back at the fridge.) You can eat them as little as 1 to 2 hours later, but they become ideal at 6 to 8 hours. They’ll keep in the fridge, submerged in their brine, for 3 weeks, though never around here.
Just a little NYC sourcing shout-out: There are several local farms that bring kirby cucumbers to the Greenmarkets, but by far, my favorites to seek out come from Kernan Farms, where they have them for over a month each summer and they’re always incredibly crisp. During the growing season, they’re at St. Marks Church Tuesdays, Union Square Wednesdays, Borough Hall Thursdays, 97th Street Fridays, Grand Army Plaza and Abington Square Saturdays and Bensonhurst Sundays.