My kids have been stuck at home since mid-March. Our summer garden was overrun with fresh cucumbers. The world was on fire. Nothing to do but make pickles.
We picked a charity, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, a well run local institution that delivers food to food pantries across 11 Louisiana parishes (counties) including the one we live in.
We played around with a recipe for quick refrigerator pickles that turned out great. We put the word out to our friends and family. We bought our spices from Red Stick Spice Co. When all of our cucumbers were gone, we bought more from the Red Stick Farmers Market.
We sold 5 dozen jars and counting. And we’re donating the funds – more than $500 so far, (plus the value of our time and the cost of our supplies) to the Food Bank. Our donation is the equivalent of almost $1,500 worth of meals thanks to the Food Bank’s buying power. (While everyone tends to think of donating cans to food banks, they actually prefer money because they can purchase more food through their national relationships.)
Before I get to the recipe, I want to share 5 things I love about this project.
- It was EASY. Never did it seem too much work or get boring. It wasn’t complicated. I supervised, but my sons (13 & 16) were more than capable of doing it alone.
- It was DELICIOUS. It’s one thing to hit your friends and family up for cash donations to a cause, but it’s another when you give something nice in return. We got a lot of good feedback on our pickles.
- It gave my kids something FUN and MEANINGFUL to do this summer.
- They BUILT SKILLS, including keeping up a spread sheet, recording costs and tracking distribution. This was nothing super sophisticated – but it was a beginning they can build on.
- They learned something about COMMUNITY. It gave us a starting point to talk about social issues and how our family could help.
Now, on to the recipe.
Richardson Family Refrigerator Pickles
Makes 8 1-pint (16 oz. ) jars
To make brine:
3 cups white vinegar
4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
8 teaspoons salt
Add the vinegar and water to a Dutch oven or large pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, and vigorously whisk in sugar and salt until completely dissolved.
To fill 8 jars, you will need the following:
8 large cloves of garlic, peeled
4 teaspoons dill seed (1/2 teaspoon for each jar)
4 teaspoons brown mustard seed (1/2 teaspoon for each jar)
4 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional) (1/2 teaspoon for each jar)
8-10 fresh cucumbers
In the bottom of each cleaned and dried jar, add one clove of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon dill seed, 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seed and, if you like a kick, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Trim cucumbers according to your preferences, slicing them across the center for chips, or vertically into spears. Do not peel. Add cucumber slices to the jar, packing them in tightly. Vary them by adding slices of jalapeño and fresh white onion. Pour brine over the pickles, then seal and refrigerate.
These pickles are ready in 24 hours, but even better if you wait 2-3 days.
Instead of cucumbers, try parboiled fresh okra or green beans. They also make delicious pickles.