Crunchy Refrigerator Pickles: Quick & Easy Homemade Dill Pickles

By Deanna | August 5, 2021
I mean, who doesn’t love a good pickle? Crunchy, tangy, salty… yum! Whether you’re growing your own or are simply in the mood for a fun summer project, making fresh homemade dill pickles is a great way to preserve cucumbers – all while creating a delicious and healthy snack! Even better, this refrigerator pickles recipe is exceptionally quick and easy to make. Without the fuss of canning, refrigerator pickles also stay more crisp than canned ones since they’re not subject to high heat. 
Want to know a secret? You can use this same recipe to quick pickle a wide variety of veggies including green beans, carrots, cucamelons, radishes and more! The process is just a tad different to pickle peppers, so check out that recipe here. Don’t miss the printable recipe at the end!

What cucumbers are the best to make refrigerator pickles?

Petite “pickling cucumber” varieties will make the best, most crunchy homemade pickles. (You know… the small bumpy ones.) That is especially true for canned pickles. However, I find refrigerator pickles are more forgiving for texture, so we often use slicing cucumbers too. They stay plenty crisp for us! I’ve also heard Armenian cucumbers make for extra crunchy refrigerator pickles.

No matter what type you use, choose the most fresh and firm cucumbers you can find. Farmer’s Market cucumbers will always be more fresh than those you can buy in the grocery store! If you grow your own, make pickles within a few days of harvest – and be sure to store them in the fridge in the meantime. Never use cucumbers that have mold, and avoid those with major dings, bruises, or soft spots for homemade pickles. 

How to make homemade pickles crunchy and crisp

One of the most common questions (and qualms) when it comes to making pickles is how to prevent them from getting soft. So, follow these tips to make crunchy homemade pickles:

  • Always use the freshest cucumbers possible. Just-picked are best!
  • Cut off and discard the blossom end of the cucumber to prevent a soft pickle.
  • Choose smaller cucumbers over extra-large ones. Petite ones will have a higher skin-to-flesh ratio and also fewer seeds – the part that gets most soft. Little guys (or gals) fit better in jars with less waste too.
  • Never peel cucumbers before making homemade pickles. 
  • Add tannins. Include a couple grape leaves, horseradish leaves, oak leaves or black tea leaves in each jar. The natural tannins found in these leaves help homemade pickles stay crisp. No access to fresh leaves for tannins? Try using a "pickle crisp" product instead.
  • Keep the cucumbers cold before making pickles by storing them in the refrigerator. For maximum crunch, soak your sliced cucumbers in a large bowl of ice water for several hours or overnight before adding them to the jar.
  • For smaller batches and where cold storage space isn’t a concern, use a refrigerator pickles recipe (like this one!) rather than high-heat canning.

What vinegar should I use to make homemade pickles?

Distilled white vinegar is the most common type of vinegar used in homemade pickle recipes, followed by apple cider vinegar – also known as ACV. We like to use a combination of both, since each type brings a little something unique to the table….or in this case, the jar!

White vinegar has a more sharp acidic bite to it, and since it is colorless, results in a clear pickling brine. Apple cider vinegar has a more fruity, sweet, and mellow flavor. It is light burnt orange or tan in color, and it is also slightly cloudy. Therefore the resulting homemade pickle brine will be less clear than using white vinegar. We also love that raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is full of healthy probiotics ! 

Though this is a refrigerator pickles recipe, I should note that it’s important to use pasteurized vinegar with at least 5% acetic acid when canning. In that case, do not use weaker vinegars like some salad or wine vinegars, or homemade vinegar since the acetic acid content is unknown (even though we do love to make our own ACV !). The bottle of vinegar should list the percent acid. Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more information on safety and canning.

How to Make Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Ingredients

The recipe below is per quart jar. Scale up or down as needed.

  • Approximately 4 to 6 small pickling cucumbers, or 2 to 3 small to medium slicing cucumbers
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 tsp sea salt, kosher salt or pickling salt (not table salt)
  • 1.5 Tbsp cane sugar
  • approximately 6 sprigs of fresh dill (a small handful) OR 2-3 dill flower heads
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • a pinch of red chili flakes, more or less per personal preference (I like about a half a teaspoon)
  • Optional (though highly recommended for crunchy homemade pickles): 1 or 2 grape leaves or oak, horseradish, or black tea leaves. Another alternative is to use a pickle crisp granules. 
  • Optional: A few slices of onion and/or fresh hot chili peppers (e.g. jalapeño pepper). I added some homegrown sweet Walla onion to this batch!

Instructions

Prep

  1. In cool water, thoroughly wash the fresh dill and cucumbers. Again, avoid using cucumbers that are bruised, soft, or otherwise damaged.

  2. Trim off the ends of the cucumbers, and then cut them into your desired shape such as round slices, halves, or my personal favorite, thick spears. Pay attention to the height of your jar versus the length of your cucumber pieces (so they aren’t too tall to fit inside). You can also leave small pickling cucumbers whole.
  3. If time allows, feel free to soak the cut cucumbers in ice water for several hours before proceeding to packing the jars. When I’m not going to soak them, I usually start the brine on the stove first (described next) so it can cool slightly while I am prepping the cukes.

Brine and Pack

  1. Create the pickling brine by combining the called-for water, vinegars, sugar and salt in a pot on the stovetop. Heat lightly and stir until the sugar and salt both completely dissolve, and then remove the pot from the heat. (The remaining spices will go right in the jar.) 

  2. Add the washed dill to the bottom of a clean jar. Then add the peeled garlic cloves and remaining called-for spices into the jar. Also toss in any optional goodies like onion or hot chili peppers now.

  3. If you’re using grape leaves (or other leaves) for tannins, you can either add those to the bottom of the jar now or put them on top at the very end, pressing them down into the brine. Alternatively, add a pickle crisping agent following the product instructions.

  4. Finally, fill the jar with cucumbers. Pack them in tightly to reduce wasted space.

  5. Once the brine has cooled to lukewarm, pour it over the cucumbers until they’re completely submerged and the jar is full. Using a hot brine will slightly cook the cucumbers and thereby make them less crunchy. You may have a little brine leftover. That’s okay! Better to have extra than not enough. (If you do happen to need more to completely fill the jar, simply splash a little more vinegar in on top).

Rest and Enjoy!

  1. Add a lid to the jar and then move it to the refrigerator. You can use a standard jar lid, though we’ve come to prefer using these BPA-free plastic mason jar lids for refrigerator pickles since the high vinegar/acid content can make regular metal mason jar rings corrode and get rusty.

  2. Now, allow your refrigerator pickles to sit and marinate in the refrigerator for about 5 days before consuming in order to develop maximum delicious dilly pickle flavor. (I always sneak a few before then though!)
    Over the first couple days in the fridge, gently shake the jar every now and then in order to mix and wet the ingredients that may be exposed or floating on the very top of the jar. This isn’t crucial; I just do it when I see them and remember.

Now enjoy your delectable crunchy homemade refrigerated pickles! For the best quality and texture, consume within 2 to 3 months. Continued refrigeration is required. If you end up eating the pickles fairly quickly (within one month) feel free to toss in more fresh cucumbers or other veggies to reuse the brine and create more pickles!


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