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.