Who needs a large pot of boiling water, throwing off steam into an already hot and humid kitchen? I hope the cooler temperatures of this week are a harbinger of cooler weather to come. It isn’t that I don’t want my tomatoes to ripen— I just want to feel a little less hot and grumpy as I do the annual putting-food-by process, and the weather of the past couple weeks has sent me hunting for ways to avoid heat.
Refrigerator pickles are the obvious go-to. In the past, I employed this method to use up the last handful of cucumbers I harvested, because I had already made all the canned bread and butters and dills and salad mixes I wanted. A jar in the fridge yielded a small batch of quick-to-use pickles without the heat of processing. Most recently, I prepared a batch of freezer pickles so the fridge wouldn’t get crowded and the pickles shoved to the back and forgotten.
This year, my island neighbor Mary Ryder passed along to me a delicious gingery and garlicky refrigerator pickle. It came, she said, tongue in cheek, from a “respectable cookbook.” She altered it to suit her own taste and preference for procedures. You can do likewise, though sometimes I advise beginners to use the recipe as written at least the first time, then tinker later.
Because the recipe requires no processing, any clean jar with a lid will serve — no canning jar required. Mary likes to use thin-skinned Persian cucumbers and says if you use standard pickling cukes, peel off strips of skin. Cut the cukes to fit your jar, in quarters or halves, and put them in a colander in the sink. Sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and drain for up to 30 minutes, tossing them from time to time. Then pat them dry on a towel; don’t rinse them.
“While they are doing their thing in the sink,” says Mary, “grate a 1- to 2-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger and a medium peeled clove of garlic on a fine toothed grater into a bowl big enough to accommodate the cukes.” She grates the peeled garlic first, and when the bit gets too small, she just puts the ginger right on top of the remaining clove and keeps grating. Clever. Or use a garlic press and just grate the ginger. I like a microplane for this job or the fine side of a box grater.
Mary adds a tablespoon of rice vinegar to the garlic and ginger shavings. She says the original recipe recommends cider vinegar or lime juice, which gives it a more acidic bite. “Stir and add the dried cukes and roll them around in it,” she says. “At this point it seems like there isn’t enough liquid, so I went off the original recipe and poured in seasoned rice vinegar.”
Seasoned rice vinegar, by the way, is merely sweetened rice vinegar. I make my own by adding simple syrup to taste to rice vinegar.
Then fill your jars. “I stuff the cukes — really stuff ’em — into the clean, dry glass container, pour in the vinegar-garlic-ginger mix and top it off with a little seasoned rice vinegar until they are all submerged. Screw on the lid and let them sit in the refrigerator.” She says she “sloshes” the cukes around while they are pickling.
“You can eat them later that day or hold off for a day or two — right out of the jar, standing in front of the refrigerator, at all times of the day and night. I don’t know how long they can stay in there because they get eaten so fast.” Which is a good thing because they will get limp the longer they are in the pickle.
Ginger and Garlic Refrigerator Pickles
Pickling cucumbers or thin-skinned Persian style, lightly skinned
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1- to 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 clove of garlic, peeled
Seasoned rice vinegar
Hot pepper flakes (optional, to taste)
Cut the cucumbers into halves or quarters to fit your jar and put in a colander.
Sprinkle with the salt and toss to spread it among the cucumbers.
Over a bowl large enough to hold the cucumbers, grate the garlic and ginger.
Add a tablespoon of the vinegar and mix.
After 30 minutes of salting, pat dry the cucumbers, and pack them tightly into the jar or jars.
Top off each jar with seasoned rice vinegar.
Cover with lids and put in the fridge for at least a day or longer.