Dueling Pickles

All summer long, I kept saying that I was going to make refrigerator pickles. My husband is a fan and I had this grand idea about adding hot peppers to make a spicy variety that would make him especially happy. And then the summer started. And it kept going. And my schedule was full. Full of happy things, mind you. I'm not complaining. Well, I might be if I never made the pickles, but September ended up giving me an opportunity. It was the middle of the month, but I found myself with clean jars, pickling cucumbers, garlic, dill and hot peppers. More than any of those things, I found myself with some time and a couple of different brines I wanted to try. So the adventure began.

I began by packing two quart jars with three cucumbers that had been sliced into spears and an extra cucumber that had been sliced into coins. I like the combination because sometimes I feel like having a pickle spear and other times I prefer a smaller coin and it's nice to have them both in one jar. I also packed the following into each jar:

  • 4 cloves of garlic that had been sliced into long, thin pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of pickling spices
  • 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 whole dried chili peppers
They had the same solid ingredients. Then it was time to shake things up a bit, in one case ... literally!

I chose two different brines to pickle my two jars of refrigerator pickles. They each involved the same four ingredients, but in differing amounts and they were prepared differently. I wanted to see what, if any, differences in the final products would result. After all, things like differences in heat and acid can make huge differences in baking and preserved food really is not terribly different.

The first brine consisted of:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
That was mixed together in a nonreactive saucepan and heated to a boil. The brine was allowed to cool until lukewarm and then poured over the pickles. A lid was put on the jar and the pickles found a home at the back of my refrigerator for the next couple of days.

The second brine consisted of:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 2/3 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
That was mixed together in a glass jar with a lid and shaken until well-mixed. The resulting brine was poured over the pickles. A lid was put on the jar and those pickles also found a home at the back of my refrigerator for the next couple of days.

And then it came time to try the pickles. The first tasting was on a Friday night when we had hamburgers for dinner. After all, pickles are a perfect accompaniment to burgers and, after all, it's all about the food. We decided quickly that we liked the pickles in both jars. However, there were some differences. The pickles in the second jar were crisper and not quite as vinegary as those in the first jar, even though the first jar's pickles had less vinegar in the brine. The color of the pickles in the first jar was a bit deeper, especially the green of the skin. Another tasting a couple days later had the differences less noticeable, although the pickles in Jar #2 still stayed crunchier. In the end, the second jar with the non-cooked brine wins out for me for one very simple reason: It's easy. The differences between the two jars are small and when summers are as busy as this last one has been for me, I'm either not going to get around to making pickles at all or I'm gonna need a recipe that's simple to put together. One that has me devoting most of my time to actually packing the jar with cucumbers is just what I ordered!

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