Pick your perfect pickles

Gretchen Mckay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It’s the rare person who doesn’t love pickles. Besides giving hamburgers a crunchy, vinegary finish or a bloody Mary martini its zing, pickles are packed with good bacteria called probiotics, which makes them terrific for gut health.

You might like pickles even more if you knew how easy they are to make with just a few simple ingredients you might already have in your pantry.

If you go with the refrigerator version, all you have to do it slice a few cucumbers and boil a mixture of water, vinegar, sugar and spices. Fridge pickles are exactly as billed: a type of fresh pickle that goes right into the refrigerator instead of being preserved in a hot water bath and put up. They can last for up to a month chilled, though the longer they sit, the less crisp they become.

Be sure to wash the produce thoroughly and sterilize the pickling container before packing the pickles. I use glass Mason jars.

Bread and Butter Pickles

These have a crisp texture and sweet-sour flavor. They pair well with cheese and are awesome on top of a crispy chicken sandwich.

2 pounds pickling cucumbers, sliced thin

11/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

2 cups sugar

2 cups white vinegar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 to 3 teaspoons mustard seeds

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

Combine cucumbers, onions and salt in a large, shallow bowl; cover and chill 1-2 hours.

Remove cucumbers to a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain well and return vegetables to bowl.

Combine granulated sugar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and ground turmeric in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, and cook for 1 minute.

Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the cucumber mixture. Let cool to room temperature, then ladle into pint jars or other airtight containers and refrigerate 24 hours. Store in an airtight container.

Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Note: Fresh dill, which you can find in bunches at farmers markets, is essential.

12 pickling cucumbers

4 large garlic cloves, halved

3 teaspoons mustard seeds

3 teaspoons peppercorns

1 bunch fresh dill sprigs

4 cups water

4 cups distilled white vinegar

1/2 cup cane sugar

4 tablespoons sea salt

Slice cucumbers lengthwise into quarters, or eighths, depending on how fat the cucumber is and how fat you want your pickles. To make dill pickle chips, thinly slice them horizontally.

Divide sliced cucumbers among 4 8-ounce glass jars. Divide garlic, mustard seeds, peppercorns among the jars, and add a couple of dill sprigs to each jar.

Bring water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve, about 1-2 minutes. Let cool slightly and pour over cucumbers. Set jars aside to cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator.

Pickles will get more flavorful the longer they sit in the fridge. They can be stored for several weeks.