Monday, September 22, 2008

I made salt-free pickles! Yeah!

Freezer pickles, that is. I've posted before about a wonderful product I discovered several months ago, B & G Unsalted Kosher Dill Pickles. They're a great find when you're on a low sodium diet but have a craving for pickles. I've ordered them twice already, several jars at a time, from HeartWise Foods. The biggest problem has been that from time to time, the pickles are out of stock. I looked for other online vendors and found that they, too, had the items back-ordered. Bummer!

Anyhow, I'd noticed that our local farmer's markets were selling pickling cucumbers. And then I discovered an online recipe for salt-free dill pickles. I thought, why not give it a try? And that's what I did. First of all, I only bought about eight small pickling cukes. I wanted to experiment and see if a salt-free homemade pickle could even taste halfway decent. I didn't want to make a big batch of something inedible.

Secondly, I didn't want to go through the canning process. I wanted a refrigerated pickle.

I faithfully followed the salt-free dill pickle recipe but was very disappointed. It called for a brine of three parts vinegar to one part water. In addition, the brine was flavored with onion, garlic, dill seeds, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and pickling spices. The idea itself worked. I had a jar of crisp, spicy flavored pickle spears. I just didn't like the flavor. The pickling spice, in particular, was overwhelming and the brine was one dimensional, just tart & sour.

I remembered that the B & G dills had a touch of sweetness and wondered if that's what was missing. I thought maybe subtracting the salt called for adding another taste characteristic. So I looked online for some other refrigerator pickle recipes. I figured I would just eliminate the salt. While looking, I stumbled upon several freezer pickle recipes. They sounded like the perfect answer to my canning dilemma. I could make several batches and not worry about the safety of canning because they'd be stored in the freezer.

I had just a couple of pickling cukes left over from my first attempt, so I ended up making a small batch. I combined ingredients and techniques from several recipes and came up with a pretty good final product. They're reminiscent of Clausen's refrigerated pickles. This time around, I made slices rather than spears. When I go to the farmer's market this week, I'll see if I can pick up some more cucumbers. I'd like to make enough homemade pickles to last until the next shipment of the B & G dills. I sure hope the cucumber season hasn't ended.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with these homemade salt-free pickles. In fact, I seem to be snitching a couple of "chips" every time I open the fridge. I haven't frozen them yet because I keep nibbling on them. I'll freeze my next batch if there are still pickling cucumbers available.

Please Note the following safety precautions:

Refrigerator pickles do NOT have the same "shelf life" as canned pickles

Refrigerator pickles MUST be consumed within 3-4 weeks

If you can't eat them up that quickly, package them in smaller containers and freeze

Once thawed, the pickles should be kept refrigerated and only for 3-4 weeks 

(You might enjoy reading about my adventures searching for purchased low sodium pickles here.)

Salt-Free Dill Pickles

5 small pickling cucumbers
1/2 small onion, chopped or thinly sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped or thinly sliced
1 cup white, distilled vinegar
1-4 tablespoons white sugar (depending on your desire for sweetness -- 1 tbsp. will be more like traditional dills while 4 tbsp. will be closer to bread & butter)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon dill seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes (optional)

Pack cucumber spears or "chips" in a freezer container along with onion & garlic. Combine spices, vinegar, & water in a saucepan. Bring to boiling, reduce heat, & simmer for 1 minute. Take off heat. Once brine has cooled, fill container with vinegar solution leaving 1/2 - 1 inch of headspace. Secure top and shake or stir well to distribute spices. Place in refrigerator. Allow 2-3 days for pickles to absorb flavorings. Shake container or stir mixture every day to redistribute brine & spices. Freeze. Thaw pickles for approximately four hours before serving.


Candy said...

Heading to the Farmer's Market now. I can't wait to try these!

OhioMom said...

Oh these sound wonderful, how long do you think they will keep in the fridge instead of the freezer?

I will definitely be on the lookout for cukes when I go to the farmers market this weekend.

shambo said...

Candy, I hope they work out for you. And I hope there are pickling cukes still available -- for you & for me.

Linda, some recipes said the refrigerated pickles should be used up in a couple of weeks; other recipes said a month. It all depended on who wrote the recipe.

Same thing with the freezer pickles. One source said they lasted in the freezer for over six months. Other sources said only about six weeks. Who can you trust? You got me! I sure don't know.

As an aside, the refrigerator pickle recipes called for 1 cup vinegar to 1-2 cups sugar. Way too sweet for my husband to even consider eating. That's why I cut down the sugar in my version so much. If you don't mind a sweeter pickle, go ahead and use more.

We aim to please our food critics, don't we?

Lucy said...

First off, I didn't know that B & G had salt free pickles, thanks for the heads up ;-) DH loves pickles and misses those most since he can't have salt any longer. Hopefully I'll be able to find pickling cukes, I'd love to try making them.. Thanks for the info & recipe, it's something I hadn't thought of making before your post ;-)

Anonymous said...

Here's a suggestion for you. My dad does this though he still eats pickles with salt. He's one of those rare people with extremely low blood pressure. He's also frugal (he's scottish and can squeeze a penny to make it last). Anyway when he's done eating all the pickles in a jar he will use the left over juice to soak a fresh cuke or two and he is sure to eat those up within a day or two. He says they're quite good. He also uses the left over juice from pepperchinis to soak either a cuke, some slice green pepper or some baby carrots. Again he doesn't leave them around for more then a day or two. I keep meaning to try it but haven't yet. So I am thinking you could do this with the left over salt free pickle juice. Unfortunately for me I use to have dad's low blood pressure but it's edging up and I'm praying if I lay off the salt I won't end up with mom's high blood pressure. I've learned to eat unsalted chips and like them, so I am betting the salt free pickles are good. Are they more expensive? If so I would probably follow my dad's example. But I would probably slice a cuke into a small bowl and cover it with some left over pickle juice. Let it soak a bit and eat it and then do that again. I inherited dad's frugality. lol Delia

shambo said...

Using the salt free brine is a good idea. I agree that they would need refrigeration and need to eaten quickly. But it might help satsify a craving.

Anonymous said...

Healthy Heart Market online sells salt frre pickles. They are very good. They started making them because they too had trouble with B&G supply.

shambo said...

Thanks for that info. I've been waiting for those pickles to arrive but hadn't checked the website for quite a while. I'm going to order some right away.

Anonymous said...

Healthy Heart Market has there very own no sodium pickle. I must say I enjoy it very much

Jude said...

AWESOME ,AWESOME my cravings for pickles have seemed to be abated for now. This recipe is great. My first 2 batches did not make it into the freezer as I ate them they were so good. My 3rd batch, the dills just went in the freezer today. My "chips" are still in the fridge and do not think they will make it to the freezer. Next time though I might not add as much vinegar and add some tumeric to the bread and butter ones [the chips]. But due to health problems I am forbidden salt but have an insatiable appetite for pickles and this has. really really helped. Thank you for sharing.

DD said...

Going along with the frugal Scottish, I used my leftover pickle juice to brine hard boiled eggs, yumm. I wonder how they would be in this, cause I miss them as well as the pickles. I would bottle Dilly Beans each summer but that is out of the diet too so I might experiment with this new found recipe. I have used other salt free pickle recipes that use splenda instead of sugar for those of us that can't have sugar either. I now grow stevia in my garden to use as the sweetner with all the bad things I hear about these artificial sweetners, trying to go as natural/organic as possible.
Thanks everyone for your input!

Leo Soderman said...

Came across this recipe while looking for low sodium recipes. Just took the first batch out of the fridge. They were awesome! Almost gone already. I'll be buying some extra jars and a lot more vinegar and making a big batch this weekend! Thanks!

shambo said...

Leo, I'm glad you enjoyed them. Nothing beats a nice tangy pickle.

Louise said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this recipe. I started to order dill pickles online to find out it costs me $20 in freight for 2 jars! This recipe is easy and a blessing.

shambo said...

Louise, I hope you enjoy the pickles. Just remember a few safety tips:

Refrigerator pickles do NOT have the same "shelf life" as properly canned pickles

Refrigerator pickles MUST be consumed within 3-4 weeks

If you can't eat them up that quickly, package them in smaller containers and freeze

Once thawed, the pickles should be kept refrigerated and only for 3-4 weeks

rehab said... sells an excellent version of a no salt pickle

rehab said...


The no salt pickles are available on the internet at


shambo said...

Rehab, I've been ordering the dills & cornichons from Delicious Concepts. They're great.

I wrote about my pickle adventures here:

Elizabeth said...

I've been doing very low sodium for about 6 weeks because of ascites and other edema. I thought my craving for pickles was going to do me in. I was even dreaming about them. I ended up ordering sodium free pickles from the Heart Healthy Market and they were good, but VERY expensive to ship to Louisiana. I've been searching for a more affordable option. I think I've found it. I took the empty HHM pickle jar and cut up small Persian cucumbers (from Trader Joes) into slices. Then I filled the container with Apple cider vinegar and left it in the fridge for 2 day. I just ate most of the jar. It filled my craving! What I did to make them taste better was to liberally season them with Benson's Table Tasty. I can't wait to make more.

shambo said...

Elizabeth, thanks for your comments. I think you've got a great idea there. Vinegar seems to lessen the need for excessive salt in homemade refrigerator pickles. Also adding your favorite spices helps a lot too. Another thing you can do is pickle other vegetables -- carrots, green beans, radishes, etc. The only limitation is your imagination.

Good luck with your new way of eating & cooking.

Elizabeth said...

Ohhhhh, you're giving me ideas! A trip to the grocery store is in order. :-)

shambo said...

Elizabeth, you're too funny! I forgot about summer squash. Zucchini pickles would be great too!

Elizabeth said...

Something I should have said in my first post is that what I made would never pass as a traditional pickle you'd buy in a grocery store. It's a cucumber infused with Apple cider vinegar. It's crunchy and tasty, and I find it delicious, but before I started eating low sodium, I probably would have passed on them. It's amazing how much more I taste the actual food now, instead of just the salt. It's actually pretty amazing!

shambo said...

Elizabeth, it really doesn't matter if it's traditional or not. If it satisfies your craving, then It's good stuff.

I think just about any vegetable and even some fruits can become refrigerator pickles. They're so easy to make. Just be sure to gobble them up within a month. They're not meant for longer storage.

Elizabeth said...

I can assure you that using them within a month is not going to be a problem. Hee hee

Anonymous said...

Hello, couls apple cider vinegar be used in place of white? Thank you!

shambo said...

Any 5% strength could be used with these pickles.