Instant pickles! (easy and homemade)

So, some background story- I went to a microbrewery here in Normal, Illinois. The burgers were really good, the buns were made in house, the cook did excellent work toward ‘medium-rare,’ plus it was served with fries that were identifiably part of a sweet potato. All pluses!

Curiously though, the real standout was the pickle slice on the burger. It was crisp! I have never had an actually crisp (fresh) pickle. The store-bought jars claim to crunch, but that’s pretty much blatantly a lie, they’re soggy and close-to-gray. So, as a lover of the small touches, I set about searching for a good pickle recipe I could replicate with what I had in my kitchen- trouble was, I couldn’t find one.

Pickling, like brewing, can be an intensely complicated process with specialized equipment, if you want it to be. You can ferment pickles, boil/blanch them, douse them in exotic spices and vinegars and any number of other complicated moves to brew sophisticated pickles. Who knows, maybe that’s exactly what this brew house did- I don’t know if I could taste the difference.

I set about making a recipe which worked, with no special equipment, with foods that I had in my kitchen. Here is my thought process: to pickle a pickle, you need to create an environment that bacteria will really hate. Bacteria don’t like salt and they don’t like acids like vinegar- particularly bacteria that might make a person sick. So, salt and vinegar are the name of the secret sauce! Spice as you like, but it’s not mandatory.

There are two methods here- pretty easy, and crazy easy instant pickles.

Pretty easy pickles:

Make a brine for your pickles out of white vinegar and kosher salt, mixing about 1 cup of vinegar to 1 tablespoon of salt plus a cup of water. Boil this mixture to ensure that it’s sterile, take it off heat, and drop your sliced pickles into it- either spears or hamburger slices work 🙂 I like mine about 1/2 inch thick. Allow the brine to cool on the stove, and fill a container (like an empty store-bought pickle jar!) with your newly minted pickles. They will last and last, at least months if refrigerated.

Homemade pickle jar

Those aren’t Vlasics!

For crazy easy instant pickles:

Remember that store bought pickle container? Remember that you left it just sitting there in the fridge, bereft of pickles but full of brine? Time to recycle! Dump a fresh cut cucumber into it, and top off with brine as described above until all the cucumbers are covered. Your cucumber will taste like pickles in about a day, and I know for a fact that they will keep for a week. I’ll update when I figure out how long they’ll last at the far end without boiling the vinegar- I’m willing to bet they will keep for a month without issue, as vinegar is a pretty fierce antibacterial.

Voila! Burger bar pickles with less than ten minutes prep time :).

Instant pickle slices

Look at the color- this is them after a week brine, and they are as crisp and green as fresh sliced cucumbers :).